ISLAMABAD: The Council of Common Interests (CCI) has allowed provinces to set up power plants having capacity of up to 100 megawatts, apparently in the face of government’s failure to ensure equitable distribution of available electricity.
The decision was taken in the last meeting of CCI on the insistence of Punjab, said Secretary Planning Javed Malik here on Monday. He was speaking in a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Planning.
Malik said compared to previous limit of 50MW, the CCI allowed the provinces to set up 100MW projects where sovereign guarantees were involved. If the provinces finance the project from their own resources, there is no capacity limit.
Punjab also asked the CCI to resolve the upfront tariff issue as the province depended on the federal power distribution network. According to Malik, the tariff issue will be settled in a committee formed to work out a judicious power distribution system.
Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have been complaining about massive load-shedding affecting all the sectors unlike the other two provinces where outages are not as severe. The provinces have now started planning to establish their own power plants to lessen dependence on the national power system.
In the meeting, the members of the standing committee also questioned the role of Planning Commission and its failure to frame long-term plans that could save the country from the energy crisis.
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr Nadeemul Haque admitted that the commission had been turned into a project approval authority, away from its core role of making plans for long-term growth and development of the country.
“The tiny role of project approval has become so important that the basic function of growth and development has been left far behind,” said Haque, who advocated independent status for the commission. He said the commission was an independent institution and should be free from the influence of ministries, adding the only way the country can come out of the present crisis is to implement reforms.
“I ask you parliamentarians where is growth and development in this country,” said Haque in a complaining tone. “We have reached a point where there is no chief economist for the last six years and I am unable to find a suitable person for the job.”
He suggested that instead of appointing members of the Planning Commission on political basis, the posts should be filled with technocrats knowing their job well.
While the deputy chairman complains about political appointments, Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has cleared a summary seeking extension in the tenure of Member Monitoring and Implementation General (Retired) Shahid Niaz, hailing from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Member Infrastructure Ghulam Mohayuddin Marri of Balochistan.
The summary has been cleared for the consideration of prime minister despite serious corruption charges against the member infrastructure.
The deputy chairman is also feeling the pressure. Despite knowing the gravity of situation, he has been approving projects under political considerations, resulting in a situation where if no new project is approved for six consecutive years, the country will be able to complete only the ongoing schemes due to scarcity of resources.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2012.
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