Worsening power crisis

Worsening power crisis

Summer seems to have aggravated the already acute power crisis at its very onset with over 20 hours load shedding in the rural areas and 18 hours outages in most of the urban areas of the country.

Protesting against the precarious situation on Thursday, people in different cities of Punjab took to the streets, blocked roads, and damaged public properties. They even attacked and damaged the properties of some political leaders. Widespread demonstrations were also held in Karachi. Jumping at the golden opportunity to attack the PPP-led government, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif even joined the protestors gathered at Chungi Amar Sidhu in Lahore. While addressing the protest rally, he threatened the federal government with a long march, accusing it of singling out Punjab for longer power cuts than other provinces. Mr Sharif’s allegation is neither new nor justified as the evidence indicates otherwise. The whole country has been in the grip of this crisis since many years.

The situation is the same throughout the country. Unfortunately, it seems that the leadership of the PML-N has little to offer except blame games and grandiose displays of uncouth behaviour, both in parliament and on the streets. On the other hand, the government’s ally, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), severely criticised the government for the second consecutive day in the Senate and even threatened to leave the coalition if this issue is not resolved immediately. Reacting to the protest, a PPP Senator blamed the PML-N for inciting riots in Punjab to malign both the PPP and the PML-Q. Such allegations are only adding to the already tangible air of tension between past and present allies and may even lead to a worse law and order situation across the country.

No one should play politics with this issue of an extremely serious nature.The PPP-led government should mend the lax attitude of its ministers. The last four years of this government’s tenure suggest a clear pattern of incompetence amongst members of the cabinet as matters are left to fester and once problems reach their ugly maturity, empty sloganeering and disorganised efforts are put forward as the solution. This is one of the reasons why frequent and temporarily successful presidential interventions are witnessed. On President Zardari’s directive, a central control room would be now set up in the Water and Power Ministry to end unscheduled power cuts.

How much good this control room might do remains to be seen. The need of the hour is to bridge the mounting demand and production gap by addressing the basic problem, i.e. circular debt. At present, electricity generation is far below capacity due to shortage of fuel with the power producers. The cash-strapped government has to resolve the issue of the circular debt of almost Rs 400 billion. It has finally come up with little more than a stopgap solution. It will release Rs 70 billion immediately to the power companies and issue Term Finance Certificates (TFC) of the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) worth Rs 82 billion in an attempt to resolve the growing circular debt issue of the power sector.

Rs 152 billion raised to address a problem of Rs 400 billion debt makes one wonder if the ‘patch’ is designed to hold only till election day. The need for a long-term solution is still intact. At present, the country’s exports have declined significantly because of the frequent closure of industries. Matters such as the unemployment level, local insecurity and apprehensions on the part of foreign investors have plagued the country’s economy, which seems to be rapidly going down the drain. The government has to address the energy issue on a war footing. – Dailytimes