Aleppo countryside: Electricity price reduction does not meet residents’ demands
Enab Baladi – Azaz
As soon as the electricity problem disappears in Aleppo countryside, it appears again in the northern region run by the Syrian Interim Government (SIG).
The problem returns whether by raising or lowering the price of electric energy consumed by a residence, commercial or industrial facilities.
The monthly subscription prices are witnessing a state of instability, represented by a continuous increase that was met by demonstrations and protests or a slight decrease that is met with complaints and dissatisfaction by the people who believe that the price is not commensurate with the economic and living situation.
Private companies work under contracts with local councils and provide electricity and draw it from Turkey in an experiment that secured the supply of power and ended the stage of subscribing to the private ampere generators, but it did not satisfy the people or the local councils during the past months and years.
Two discounts in a month
Ak Energy Company for the supply and distribution of electricity announced the reduction of the value of electric subscriptions, as of April 10, in northern Syria.
Mohamad Eid al-Madani, head of public relations, told Enab Baladi that the company has reduced the domestic subscription price per kilowatt from 3.45 to 3.20 Turkish liras and the industrial and commercial subscription price from 4.45 to four Turkish liras.
He explained that the reason for reducing the price is its reduction by the source represented by the Turkish Ministry of Energy, and as for raising or lowering prices, the matter is related to the source first, pointing out that the company is flexible in its dealings, and follows up on any update on prices by the resource.
On March 5, Ak Energy decreased the subscription price after the local council in Azaz threatened to terminate its contracts with it if the subscription prices were not adjusted.
At that time, the price of a kilowatt of household electricity decreased from 3.85 to 3.45 Turkish liras, and commercial and industrial electricity from 5.25 to 4.45 Turkish liras.
The Ak Energy company is owned by the Syrian Ibrahim Khalil with three Turks, and was established in the Turkish state of Kilis, and supplies the regions of Azaz, al-Bab, al-Rai, Bza’a, Qabasin, Jarablus, Tal Abyad, and Ras al-Ain.
Ak Energy defines itself on its website as the first company in the region that was distinguished for having all licenses for electric power generation, distribution, and supply to subscribers in the regions of northern Syria, according to the license granted to it by the Turkish government and local councils.
The company started its operations on June 1, 2017, according to license number (9123455) granted by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in the Turkish state of Gaziantep, according to Ak Energy’s website.
Low price does not satisfy demand
Residents in the countryside of Aleppo complain about the high electricity prices, compared to the deteriorating economic situation in northwestern Syria, as the family needs the equivalent of ten days’ wages to pay the monthly electricity costs.
Some of the towns and villages of Aleppo, which are under the control of the Interim Government, have witnessed protests against raising the price of electricity, and they have been repeated over the past months.
Some of the protests resulted in human losses and extensive property damage, such as what happened in the city of Afrin at the beginning of June 2022, and the demonstrators burned the building of the electricity company operating in the area and the building of the local council as well.
Yasser Amin, an employee of a relief organization in Azaz, considered that reducing the “few piasters” of the electricity subscription price is tantamount to “laughing at people.” It is not commensurate with the living reality, nor with the size of the previous hike in electricity prices, as the increase was in Turkish liras, not piasters.
Amin said that the new reduction saves him from spending only 30 to 50 liras per month from the total subscription value, as he pays about 550 Turkish liras per month, which can be increased or decreased according to the consumption of his family of five.
In turn, Ali Mahmoud al-Nahar, a grocery owner in Azaz, considered that reducing the subscription price is a demand of all residents, which is a good thing, but the price is still high compared to electricity prices during previous years, which ranged between 2 and 2.5 Turkish liras per kilowatt. ($1=19,45 TL)
Al-Nahar told Enab Baladi that his shop consumes 600 kilowatts per month, and he pays 2,400 Turkish liras according to the new prices, while his house consumes 250 kilowatts per month, and he pays 800 Turkish liras.
He added that these payments are not commensurate with living for him as a shop owner and for anyone working within an institution, profession, or day laborer. There are other obligations such as food, water, Internet, and house rent for some, and this is what necessitates a further price reduction.
The minimum salary for an employee in the public sector in the region is 1,140 TL. It is granted to single Muezzins (who call to prayer from the mosque) and cleaners, while married employees receive a salary of 1,235 TL.
The salary of teachers is 1,750 Turkish liras for singles and 1,925 liras for married people. The daily wage for daily workers ranges between 30 and 70 liras, depending on the profession and working hours.
Local councils threaten to annul contracts
The demonstrations revealed an imbalance and lack of knowledge and coordination in the local councils’ contracts with private electricity companies and the inability to control the work of the electricity companies.
The tension also appeared through the mixed reactions, which demanded the filing of lawsuits or the cancellation of contracts, and the matter reached the resignation of some local officials.
The local councils were criticized and accused of “collusion, corruption, lack of transparency and coordination with companies against the people.”
The tension has also spread to the public and through the digital accounts of the local councils by rejecting the electricity companies’ decisions to reduce operating hours or raise subscription prices, or even reduce them slightly, and the companies’ non-compliance with contracts.
Within one month, the local council in the city of Azaz issued two circulars directed to the Ak Energy company, demanding an adjustment of its prices or the termination of the contracts concluded between the two parties. Despite the company’s reduction of its prices twice, the council stated that the prices do not correspond to the concluded contracts.
In its latest circular, on April 10, the local council presented two options for the company.
The first is to unify the subscription price for all categories and segments at 2.63 Turkish liras per kilowatt, and the second is to adopt a price of 2.37 Turkish liras for household subscriptions and government institutions, 3.76 liras for commercial subscriptions, and four liras for industrial subscription.
The Azaz local council gave the electricity company a period of 24 hours to apply these prices, and in the event of a violation, all contracts signed between the two parties are considered null, and the company is held responsible for all criminal and civil responsibilities as a result.
In January, the local council filed a lawsuit to terminate the contract with AK Energy company after its decision to reduce operating hours. It stated that the power outage would cause great harm to the work of citizens and the work of public institutions, warning the company of great public tension.
The lawsuit filed by the council at the time against the electricity company in the Turkish and Syrian courts was the seventh of its kind due to procedures for reducing operating hours and pricing that did not comply with the terms of the concluded contract.
In June 2022, the Omran Center for Strategic Studies monitored the problems related to the electricity sector file in northern Syria and stated that the purpose of these contracts is to enhance the economic level of the regions of northern Syria.
A research paper of the center showed that electricity prices during the past three years increased the living burdens on the population and the industrial sector, and in some cases, the price of a kilowatt exceeded the prices in Turkey.
The research paper recommended the formation of a single administrative umbrella that represents all local councils in the region and enjoys a technocratic administration that includes people with administrative, legal, and investment backgrounds.
This administrative umbrella supervises the management of investments in the region as a whole by issuing offers and tenders and deciding on them, and taking the best offer that takes into account the public interest.
Working on this umbrella would show the region as a unified administrative bloc that has a negotiating work front in its name and is concerned with all legal and investment affairs, the research paper concluded.
Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Azaz, Dayan Junpaz, contributed to this report.
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