Several factors are to blame for the prevailing gas crisis, but it is primarily a failure of the policymakers. The PTI government appears to be following in the footsteps of the past governments when it comes to managing a crisis. It only increases the tariff to burden the honest consumers who pay their bills regularly, but fails to take measures to plug loopholes in the energy chain.
The winter gas management required a well-worked-out estimate on the demand and supply situation. The SSGC and the SNGPL had warned the government well in time to come up with a winter plan, but it had been too slow to take a timely decision. And a delay in the decision- making brought about the gas crisis.
The indigenous gas production has remained unchanged during the last decade, but there has been no end to the provision of new gas connections just for the sake of winning votes. This has resulted in a growing demand for gas. The gas companies did have the supply for domestic consumers, but the government started giving uninterrupted gas supply to the zero-rated industry in the ongoing winter season despite the fact that the industry was already receiving electricity at a discounted rate. The fertiliser industry was also receiving gas when there was no more gas in the system.
Even though the imported gas is also available, nobody is ready to buy it. The Pakistan LNG Limited had to reschedule one LNG cargo, while LNG terminals were also shut down for annual maintenance at a time when there was need to bridge the supply deficit. The gas crisis occurred due to lack of cooperation between petroleum and power divisions that are now working under one Energy Ministry. Power plants did not lift furnace oil and imported gas. The refineries dropped production and subsequently, gas producers also cut their output. The gas crisis is a story of lack of coordination, failure of policymakers and money-minting by mafias. The prevailing situation demands that the government put a ban on new gas connections, and stop interfering in the affairs of the companies and let them set the house in order.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2019.