The water and power ministry has said that the ballooning power crisis cannot be resolved by next year – much to the dismay of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party which fears the opposition will exploit the issue to dent its vote-bank in the next parliamentary elections.
Realistically, there is no short-term solution to the country’s perennial electricity crisis, officials from the Ministry of Water and Power informed Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf at a recent briefing.
The government had taken some cosmetic measures to overcome the power crisis, or to at least shorten the duration of outages which had sparked countrywide violent protests this summer.
As part of these measures, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, the former defence minister, was assigned the Ministry of Water and Power. He had promised to bring about improvements within “three months” – but the promise didn’t materialise.
Sources told The Express Tribune that in a cabinet meeting last month Minister for National Regulations and Services Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan accused Mukhtar of favouring his own constituency in electricity supply.
The officials briefed the premier on its projections vis-a-vis demand and supply of electricity for the next six months – September 2012 to March 2013 – which were pretty disappointing for the ruling party.
The constitutional tenure of the PPP-led coalition government will end in March 2013 when, according to the ministry’s projections, the country will be “officially” facing a power shortfall of 3,620 megawatts.
The overall demand will be 15,400MW against a generation of 11,780MW. This will require the ministry to carry out at least six hours of “announced load shedding” in the major urban centres, and over 12 hours in rural areas.
Even though the ministry had announced six hours of “announced load shedding” for major urban centres for the month of September, the twin-cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad have to face 6 to 9 hours of outages.
For October and November, the ministry has projected five hours of outages in major cities, which will increase to 6 hours in January due to the closure of canals.
According to participants of Thursday’s briefing, Premier Ashraf repeatedly asked for a solution to the crisis in the next six months, but officials of the ministry had no answer.
The premier was informed that the government owed Rs445.7 billion to oil and gas companies and independent power producers. The officials cautioned him that if the financial position did not improve, it will be difficult to maintain the projected power supply.
In case the money is not recovered, the finance ministry will bear additional burdens with respect to the power status.
The government owes Rs290 billion to Independent Power Producers, Rs24.2 billion to PSO, Rs29 billion to gas companies and Rs76.9 billion to Wapda on account of hydel generation.
The private sector is the biggest defaulter that owes Rs197.3 billion to the federal government, followed by Sindh with Rs55 billion, Punjab Rs7 billion, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Rs20 billion, and Balochistan owes Rs3.7 billion.
Different departments of the federal government have not paid their electricity dues to the tune of Rs13.8 billion, the AJK government owes Rs 16.4 billion, Fata Rs25.3 billion and Karachi Electricity Supply Company owes Rs59.3 billion to the federal government, the premier was informed.
Prime Minister Ashraf directed all the departments to recover outstanding dues.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2012.