Breaking the culture of non-payment: A qualitative analysis of utility intervention Project Sarbulandi in Karachi Electric, Pakistan

Access to reliable electricity is crucial for removing barriers to economic opportunities and improving well-being; however, the fiscal challenges facing the electricity sector in many low- and middle-income countries threaten the quality of electricity service provision, hindering economic growth. In such settings, low bill payment and high non-technical losses (i.e., theft) hinder cost recovery and limit funding available for investment in infrastructure improvements.

In this paper, we consider a multipronged intervention implemented by Karachi Electric, the utility serving the city of Karachi, Pakistan,
under a project designed to reduce losses and improve cost recovery. To achieve these targets, the project increased budgets for the utility’s underperforming areas and delegated decision-making authority to the general managers of those areas. The budget increases funded infrastructure upgrades, staff incentives, and expansion of customer engagement. Given that the success of such an initiative depends on the behavior of both the utility employees and its customers, this study sought to understand how both groups perceived the implementation and impacts of the project.

Husnain F. Ahmad, Ayesha Ali, Robyn Meeks, Victoria Plutshack, Zhenxuan Wang, Javed Younas