In a bid to overcome the burgeoning power crisis, the finance ministry has agreed to release Rs22.5 billion to the ministry of water and power by Tuesday (today) to ensure steady fuel supply to thermal power plants.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso directed the finance ministry at an emergency meeting to release Rs22 billion to overcome the electricity crisis which has sparked protests in different towns and cities of the country. The money is said to be enough to fuel the plants until May 30.
However, the water and power ministry termed the decision to allocate additional funds inappropriate, saying that “it is not prudent for the government to print notes and throw them into the fathomless well”.
According to an official statement, issued by the Prime Minister House, the finance ministry will release Rs15 billion for fuel supplies while Rs7.5 billion would be released to generate additional power to reduce the demand and supply gap.
After the meeting, Caretaker Minister for Water and Power Dr Mussadiq Malik told a news conference the caretaker premier had also indicated the allocation of Rs42 billion for June 2013 to deal with the power crisis.
However, Malik said the caretaker premier was unaware as to how the finance ministry would adjust Rs22.5 billion in the federal budget as the water and power ministry has already exhausted power sector’s subsidy allocation in the federal budget for the entire year.
“You should ask the finance ministry from where and how it will arrange this amount,” he said, adding that the finance ministry had been reluctant to release funds in the past as it led to inflation.
He admitted that the allocation of additional funds for the power sector is not a solution to the problem. “Allocation of funds is not the appropriate mechanism,” Malik said. “We have to change the dimension of the economy. The cost of electricity should be reduced from Rs14 per unit to Rs 7-8 per unit through cheap electricity generation.”
After the release of the amount, he said, the suspended fuel supply chain will be restored. It is the objective of the government to generate over 12,000MW of electricity to provide relief to the masses.
Malik said out of Rs22.5 billion, Rs15 billion will be paid to Pakistan State Oil, while the rest will be spent to operationalise plants shut down and arrange for diesel oil for four IPPs.
He said Qadirpur gas well is going into an annual turn due to which gas supply to four companies will be suspended. However, on an emergency basis, diesel is being arranged at a cost of four to five billion rupees.
In this way, electricity generation of 800MW will not be affected, he said, adding that the petroleum ministry has promised to complete the turn around in seven days. Malik said efforts are underway to run IPPs at full capacity.
Acknowledging the presence of corruption in the ministry, Malik said a number of inefficient officials in the ministry of water and power have been removed.
He said, during elections, power generation was 12,500MW to 12,800MW as the government supplied 19,000 tons of furnace oil and 150 mmcfd gas, adding that this indicates there is no issue of installed capacity. However, after the elections, furnace oil supply reduced to 10,000 tons and gas to 75 mmcfd due to which generation plummeted.
The minister said that he randomly checked the power distribution system and found that one day District Sialkot was switched off, while another day half of Gujranwala was off and the third Ugi in Khyber-Pakhtunwa was switched off.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2013.
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