There is every suggestion that the gas crisis is going to be more acute this year than perhaps ever before. It is true we say the same thing every year, but this winter there appears to be a very real sense of panic.
At a meeting called by the Ministry of Petroleum and presided over by the federal minister, stakeholders including industrialists, CNG station owners, the companies involved in the distribution of gas and Ogra officials, were told that, given the severe shortfall of natural gas, CNG-shedding would continue at Sindh CNG stations for two nights each week. Industries would not receive a supply of gas for one day in the week, though Sunday has been selected as this day. In Punjab, there will be CNG-shedding for three days weekly as is the case now, creating severe problems for all those who run vehicles on the fuel once so actively promoted by the government.
The CNG dealers are naturally outraged. The question for them, of course, is whether given the situation they can stay in business at all. The CNG association has complained that industrialists have been favoured at their own cost. The problem, of course, is that the textile and fertiliser sector is already close to ruin. Anyone involved in this business will testify to that. We simply cannot afford more cuts in gas to factories which would reduce their production. The relief given to Fauji Fertiliser which will not face shedding is also intended to assist the farming sector.
The fact is that the government actually has no choice in this matter. There is simply not enough gas to go around at all. Everyone from CNG stations owners to industrialists and domestic consumers are facing the consequences. The planning required to avoid such a situation arising should have been done long ago. It was not. This is the reason why we find ourselves in the current fix. To make matters worse, no one seems able to come up with any useful suggestions and this only means that we are very far away from a solution to a crisis that has crippled our country and economy.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2011.