“Is there any light at the end of the tunnel,” a curious friend asked referring to continuous irritating power and gas loadshedding in the country. “Are we living in the Stone Age or Age of Darkness?” he again inquired. I just smile and walked away without making any comment. This actually is the state of mind of every individual in our beloved land.
A housewife, who cannot cook food for the family because of suspension of gas supply, will curse the gas authorities. Same is the case with the business community that has shelved future business plans because of power and gas supply suspension to their business outlets and factories.
Every morning one can watch on TV screens footage of protesters blocking the main highways and streets across the country. In most of the cases, the angry youth turn violent and ruthlessly damage and destroy public and private proprieties. This is the natural reaction one could expect from the frustrated masses.
Their anger is multiplied when the government increases the prices of electricity, gas and oil and resorts to loadshedding. The public is justified to ask why the government has increased 14 percent gas prices for all categories of consumers including domestic, commercial, industrial and fertiliser makers.
Motorists using CNG in their cars are also in big trouble because of increase in the CNG prices and four days suspension of gas supply to stations.
According to reports there are 3500 gas stations throughout the country involving over 300 billion rupees investment. Over 3.5 million vehicles using CNG ply on roads. The government has raised CNG rates to Rs 74.30 per kg and revised the gas loadshedding schedule. These decisions indicate that our policymakers want to force CNG consumers to switchover again from gas to petrol and diesel. Motorists preferred CNG over petrol and diesel as it was comparatively cheaper but now the CNG has been brought almost equal to the price of petrol.
The present government accuses the Musharraf regime for the faulty CNG policy which allowed establishment of hundreds of gas stations despite the fact that the country was facing acute gas shortage. But the question is why the public is always being punished for the wrongs committed by the rulers?
The government may have difficulties to generate revenues; however, the recent increase in gas and petroleum products’ prices has been termed a New Year gift of the government to the people who are already overburdened by high inflation in the country. Naturally the price-hike in gas and petroleum products is going to hit badly the low-income class.
The energy experts have questioned as to why the consumers have to pay for the gas infrastructure development surcharge. Similarly, there is no justification for charging the consumers billions of rupees annually under the unaccounted for gas (UFG) losses of 12 percent both in SSGPL and SNGPL. There is no valid reason to rob masses instead of improving those companies’ inefficiency.
Similarly, the power sector also suffers losses amounting to hundreds of billions due to theft, land and transmission losses and unpaid bills. The worse part is that all these losses are being recovered from those consumers who regularly pay their utility bills in time. The people are being made to pay for the crimes committed by others. These are the policy and management related issues that have been ignored by successive governments.
The Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain, recently talking in a TV talk show said the government has formulated a comprehensive policy to restructure oil and gas sector but at the same time he disclosed that there was huge gap between demand and supply of gas in the country, saying the people should be ready for gas outage during the winter.
The story of energy crisis does not end here. Another problem haunting the people is of power loadshedding that has started again. There are reports that presently the country is facing around 5500 megawatt power shortfall. The shortfall is caused due to reduction in the hydel power generation as well as non-availability of furnace oil to the IPPs and public sector generation plants.
According to analysts the electricity shortfall could be made up by settling the 350 billion rupees circular debt. If the IPPs and Wapda-managed generation plants are regularly supplied sufficient furnace oil, the existing gap between demand and supply would be reduced and public will get some relief.
We have entered into 2012 with severe energy crisis which has both political and economic implications. No economic growth is guaranteed without provision of adequate energy and no political party can win elections when its voters are without electricity and gas. So, please be serious and act positively before it is too late.