ISLAMABAD: Expressing satisfaction over the pace of work on ongoing energy projects, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Tuesday that loadshedding would become a “reference of history” during his term in office.
“I am happy that we are on track,” the prime minister said while presiding over a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy.
Giving a briefing, Water and Power Secretary Younas Dagah told the participants that circular debt had been capped, recoveries were satisfactory and line losses reduced. The committee was informed that all transmission and distribution lines projects were on track.
Last week, the government had told the Senate that circular debt (in the power sector) stood at Rs328 billion. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, speaking on behalf of Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif, had acknowledged that the matter was a serious one, but said that the government had taken a number of steps to bring it under control.
PPP concerned over debt piled up under present govt
According to an official handout issued by the PM Office, the Cabinet Committee on Energy reviewed progress on ongoing power projects, including coal-fired power plants, hydel projects and LNG power plants. The projects are expected to add considerable power to the national grid in 2017 and before March 2018 — the year set as the deadline to eliminate loadshedding from the country. The participants of the meeting discussed future power projects with a view to catering for the country’s increasing energy requirements.
Progress on establishing new transmission lines was discussed at length in addition to streamlining the power distribution system. The meeting was told that bottlenecks were being removed in the distribution system to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity to consumers.
The prime minister hoped that reliance on costly fuel for power generation would be reduced by the end of the government’s tenure.
Mr Sharif said the country had been gripped by the energy crisis when he took over but the situation had changed significantly. “There is zero loadshedding in the industrial sector…loadshedding in urban and rural areas has been reduced substantially,” he said.
“We will keep exploring new power generation projects on micro and mega levels to ensure sustained and uninterrupted electricity for future generations — a duty the previous governments had been unable to fulfil,” he said.
The prime minister said his government had, from the very first day, focused on resolving the energy crisis.
On the other hand, Senator Sherry Rehman, vice president of the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), expressed concern over the government’s economic policies which, according to her, had placed extra financial burden on the public.
“The Economic Coordination Committee recently extended the power sector debt for two more years. As a result, consumers will end up paying for the interest which will reflect in their electricity bills. They have already collected Rs29.3 billion from consumers in 2015-16,” Ms Rehman said in a statement.
She voiced her dismay over the country’s alarming debt accumulation under the present government and its refusal to hold itself accountable.
Ms Rehman said the reports revealed that Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities had reached Rs22.5 trillion by the end of the last fiscal year. “This figure shows a net increase of Rs2.6 trillion in one year,” she added.
“Economic forecasts and reports all point towards Pakistan’s dangerous downward economic spiral which suggests that we are headed towards an economic catastrophe, if the problems are not mitigated as soon as possible,” Ms Rehman said.
The senator said the government’s total domestic and foreign borrowings already amounted to a staggering $55 billion. “The PM spent millions on his last trip to London while his government’s disastrous economic policies only continue to pile up the country’s debt. How can this government explain this to the average Pakistani who earns Rs12,000 per month? They will lose confidence in democracy and see it as being extractive,” the senator stressed.
“Falling exports, foreign direct investment, remittances, circular debt in key industries and the debt pile up, both foreign and domestic, have been persistent economic issues with serious repercussions. Instead of finding practical and sustainable solutions, the government has been draining the government’s coffers for exorbitant trips abroad and band-aid remedies,” she reiterated.