Cabinet meets today with heavy agenda

PM GilaniISLAMABAD: The special meeting of the federal cabinet is all set to take today the energy conservation plan, hike in power tariffs and imposition of new duties on gas to fetch billion of rupees from consumers.

The energy conservation plan prepared by the Planning Commission would be submitted before the special meeting of the Cabinet for approval and implementation. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani would chair the meeting that would also be attended by all the four Chief Ministers.The meeting would take up energy conservation plan that included two holidays a week in all public departments and organisations, closure of markets at 8.00pm and replacement of all billboards/hoardings with solid-state lights to save some 700-850 MW electricity.

However, it is expected that the government of Punjab might oppose both the proposals including two holidays a week and closure of markets at 8PM in a bid to control the escalating gap between demand and supply causing long hours loadshedding.However, sources said that the federal government is all set to give go ahead to the energy conservation plan through a majority vote from three provincial chief ministers. If the chief ministers of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa support the two weekly holidays and early closure of markets, the majority decision would be enforced in three provinces and the Punjab leadership would have to adopt its own course of action.

Meanwhile, the meeting would also consider the proposal to increase power tariffs by four cent, as the Ministry of Water and Power has sent a summary of four per cent increase in electricity tariffs. The sources said that earlier the power ministry had sent a summary seeking six per cent hike in electricity tariffs but the Prime Minister turned it down and directed to revise it.

Similarly, the Cabinet meeting would also take a summary regarding imposition of Infrastructure Development Levy (IDL) on the gas consumers in an apparent bid to generate revenue for both Iran Pakistan Gas Pipeline project and Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. The said levy would be collected from the gas consumers that would generate some Rs 35 to Rs 40 billion to the national kitty annually.

The sources further informed that formal approval of this levy would be sought from the parliament after getting approval from the federal cabinet. It is likely that a levy worth Rs7/mmbtu on natural gas consumers would be imposed. The government is mustering up its efforts to exploit a domestic source of financing to generate several billions by imposing a very new kind of tax (IDL) on natural gas, whose impact is likely to be passed on to the consumers resulting in another hike in gas prices, the sources added. – Nation