Electricity and public goods provision in Karachi, Pakistan

Project Active from to State and Tax

In large parts of the developing world where democracy and democratic institutions such as legislature, courts and civil society are weakly institutionalised, the provision of public goods to the most disenfranchised members of society falls through the cracks.

This project focuses on the privatisation of electricity, a public good that at the turn of the millennia is ubiquitous in its necessity across the world, but particularly, in the man-made environment of the modern megacity. The study focuses on the delivery and distribution of energy to medium and low-income households in Karachi, Pakistan.

The process of privatisation of Karachi’s energy generation, transmission and distribution is now over a decade old. However, no rigorous study exists of the impact of this process on citizens, institutions and consumers. The role of regulatory bodies such as Pakistan’s National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), the Federal Ombudsman and the Water and Power Development Authority has not been examined in the context of regulating private energy markets. Finally, there is a major gap when it comes to broad-based survey work on energy consumption and usage among consumers in Karachi. This study attempts to fill this gap by conducting the first large-N survey of consumers in two major districts of Karachi.

The questionnaire, designed with input from scholars and practitioners of energy politics and political economy, encompasses questions of usage, expenditure and complaint. It captures individuals’ attitudes towards participation, and more importantly, their trust in key institutions of government and the private sector. In doing so, the project aligns itself with IGC’s larger mandate of service delivery and state effectiveness, energy and cities.

This IGC-supported survey aims to represent the first attempt at measuring consumption and expenditure among domestic consumers in Karachi. The survey is divided into two parts, with the first measuring households’ consumption and spending on energy (following a similar survey on household and commercial consumption of electricity in Uttar Pradesh, India). The second part will collect measures of satisfaction, fairness and trust, asking how people relate to the state and each other in the context of privatised public goods.

The survey is part of a larger project on the politics of service delivery and privatisation, and aims to provide a baseline for future work in this critical area of development, growth and participatory democratisation.