A surprise step taken by the Ministry of Water and Power to stop electricity supply to all textile units of Punjab has sparked anger and frustration among investors of the textile industry.
The apex body of textile millers – the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association – has heavily criticised the government and warned that the industry will be forced to start sacking workers from Friday, if gas and electricity supply was not restored by Thursday.
“If the government thinks that by diverting away industrial load to domestic feeders, it will gain a high number of voters, it is only misguided by its advisers,” remarked APTMA group leader Gohar Ijaz, after holding an emergency meeting with stakeholders of the Punjab textile industry.
The government would not be able to win votes at the cost of industry, he said. “What will happen when 10 million workers in Punjab are dismissed from their jobs, we don’t have any other choice as we cannot pay salaries with total shutdown.”
On Saturday, the government stopped electricity supply to Punjab’s textile industry for a month to facilitate residential consumers and soothe growing anger over power cuts, only a few months ahead of elections.
Interestingly, on the same day, Adviser to Prime Minister on Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain announced that textile mills of the province would be provided gas for 36 hours in a week. However, APTMA insisted that gas was still absent and they were totally lost and wondering what to do.
Quantifying expected loss of exports from power outages, APTMA claimed a week’s closure would cause a loss of $300 million to the mills, and if it electricity supply remained suspended for a month the loss would swell to $1 billion.
The millers also claim that they have already lost millions of dollars worth of exports during a strike by goods transporters earlier this month as orders could not be delivered to European countries on the eve of Christmas.
“This (energy outages) is only happening in Punjab and no other province is facing such a crisis, we always try to solve issues faced by the government because we want to be part of solution not a problem,” said Shahzad Ali Khan, Chairman of APTMA Punjab.
He said the industry didn’t know who was giving such advice to the government, but one thing was clear that such steps were destroying the most precious industry of the country.
However, he announced that the government had assured them that it would come up with some solution by December 28 and they were only waiting for that. “We are in negotiations with a couple of committees but do not see any light at the end of the tunnel.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2012.
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