WEB DESK: Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif in a written reply submitted to the National Assembly acknowledged that in 2018 when the PML-N administration’s tenure ends, energy demand will stand at 25,790MW while supply will stand at 18,034MW, translating into a shortfall of 7,756MW. He added that none of the 43 power generation companies is operating at 100 percent capacity.
These admissions defy the repeated commitments by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other senior members of the party, including Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, that the electricity crisis would be over by the time the incumbent government’s present tenure ends. It is therefore not clear whether the written response of the relevant minister was designed to present accurate facts to pre-empt any future criticism of his flawed claims in this regard, or simply indifference at challenging the party line set by the Prime Minister. Given that many a senior party leader has been publicly ridiculed for making false claims with respect to the time required to end the energy crisis – ranging from the PPP-appointed Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to the then Prime Minister Gilani to the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif post-2013 – it is likely that Khawaja Asif wanted to present an accurate assessment of the situation wherein he will not be blamed by his party for heavy load-shedding as the country goes to the polls.
The energy crisis is, however, mainly a function of governance rather than a supply shortage. This is supported by the fact that Pakistan’s installed capacity before 2013 was as high as 21,000MW while actual generation was in the summer months less than 10,000MW. And while demand is managed yet it is evident that the shortfall can be largely met if the installed capacity is actually brought into the network. This was confirmed in the report of the Asian Development Bank on rental power projects which contended that the energy supply-demand gap was due to failure of distribution companies to operate at capacity largely attributed to the intractable circular debt, as well as high transmission and distribution losses well above the regional average. The transmission system was acknowledged as being unable to withstand more than 15,000MW by Nargis Sethi, the then Secretary Water and Power, a few years ago. Two and half years after the incumbent government took over power the focus is on increasing generation capacity rather than on bringing existing capacity on board which would have required revamping the distribution and transmission systems as well as eliminating the circular debt.
Circular debt as an outcome of the failure of federal and provincial entities to clear their receivables remains a major impediment to capacity output. In this context, it is relevant to note that the PML-administration like the PPP-led coalition government has failed to convince the provinces, particularly Sindh, to clear its outstanding dues. In its defence, the Sindh government argues that there is a need to reconcile receivables. Be that as it may, the option to allow the federal government to cut receivables at source remains on the table with no resolution in the Council of Common Interests (CCI).
The Sharif administration has been particularly lax in promoting federal-provincial harmony and has instead widened the trust deficit with two provinces where it does not form the government. The CCI, constitutionally required to meet once every 90 days, has not been called for more than nine months; and unfortunately the government’s tackling of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), regarded by all as a game-changer, has widened the distrust between the federation and the federating units.
To conclude, Khawaja Asif’s written response presents a more accurate, albeit disturbing, 2018 picture; however, it is clearly a picture that is not shared by other members of his party.
Source: Business Recorder