ISLAMABAD: The government has sent its new water and power minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar in the field apparently armed with a magic wand that will end prolonged power outages in the country, albeit for a limited time.
Swapping Naveed Qamar with Mukhtar a day after the budget last week, is a well-thought-out political move of the government, which wants to start election campaign with the trump card of ending load shedding just before the general elections.
“The government will try to end load-shedding around three months before the elections. One of the measures under consideration is bulk payments to IPPs so that they can run at maximum capacity,” a federal minister told The Express Tribune while sharing contours of the plan.
Other options are shifting gas supply from CNG stations to power plants, introducing Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) as an alternative to CNG by bringing their prices at par and supplying LPG via gas stations instead of current practice of decanting.
The government shared the plan with its coalition partners during a recent Cabinet meeting. Appointment of Ahmed Mukhtar as minister for water and power and sending Naveed Qamar to defence ministry was the first step towards implementing the scheme, the minister said.
The government expects to generate around Rs450 billion by selling term finance certificates (TFC) worth Rs82 billion and use the funds in paying off part of the circular debt in the power sector. The government owes IPPs over Rs500 billion on account of circular debt, which according to official statistics is increasing by around Rs30 billion per month. With a capacity of 22,863 MW, the shortfall increased to 8,000 MW in May resulting in power riots across the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2012.
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