“If you are to suffer, you should suffer in the interest of the country.” – Jawaharlal Nehru once said, and this holds particularly true for the citizens of Pakistan who are made to believe that the collective suffering of our proletariat is in actuality working towards the interests of the country.
Since the inception of this country we have been moving from one crisis to another, from losing a part of the country in 1971 to facing the brunt of extremism that was fostered by the authorities to counter the Soviet threat, to finding our economy bound in the fetters of the World Bank and the IMF. What solutions do we have to all of this?
Ad-hocism is not completely a Pakistani phenomenon but more so a Muslim one. The downfall of the Muslims after the 14th or the 15th century can be attributed to the fact that there was no long term planning, management or foresight. Inherently the Muslims have been reactive to everything rather than engaging proactively to find long term solutions. The result was a rudderless boat heading towards oblivion.
This is particularly true about the state of affairs governing Pakistan today. We tend to be reactionary in everything we do. Most things happen as a reaction to a crisis or a calamity. This can be witnessed in the strikes or protests outside press clubs, the indignation expressed in media regarding a certain issue and long drawn out intellectual conversations people have in their drawing rooms. Everyone feels that they are a stake holder in the crisis and rightly so. They most certainly are. But at the same time, there is a growing need for the stake holders to be proactive rather than reactive; to anticipate and plan, to think things through instead of relying on ad-hocism to bail them out.
Unfortunately the answer to every problem that Pakistan has faced since its inception is Ad-hocism. We are a nation that loves to find shortcuts to every problem and the results are glaringly obvious. There is a reason why the public debt is more than 10.5 trillion, increasing by 5.7 trillion in only the last four years – (It took 60 years for it to reach 4.8 trillion) – there is a reason why the real per – capita income growth rate is 0.3 per cent, a reason why investment has fallen to its lowest levels in the last 40 years and a reason that there is double digit inflation despite a tight monetary policy.
Successive governments have made use of Ad-hocism to find short term solutions that has resulted in long term debilitation of the economy as a whole. Instead of creating more employment opportunities by developing a conducive environment for foreign investment – which has fallen from 22.5 percent in 2006-07 to 13.4 2010-11 – we have relied on our public sector organizations to create these opportunities. The result has been a fiasco. This can be witnessed in organizations like the PIA that posted its post tax losses for the January to September 2010 period at Rs11.7 billion. With up to 15000 employees for a 40 aircraft fleet, PIA boasts the highest aircraft to employee ratio of approximately 450 employees per aircraft. The average of the best airlines of the world stands at around 200. PSO another state owned company is running into a circular debt of Rs160billion.
Rental Power Plants
Therefore when this country faced a power crisis what did the government do? The answer was obvious. Since Pakistan is endowed with the ‘richest’ lower and middle class in the world, the government decided to produce electricity from the most expensive source of power generation available – Rental Power Plants (RPP) that run on furnace oil. It did not require a rocket scientist to figure this out, that the costs of producing electricity through RPP’s would be preposterous and the burden on the national exchequer immense.
Even at the reduced levels the expected increase in Tariff was 24 per cent, coupled with the 30 per cent increase in electricity rates that has been proposed by the IMF loan agreement. Obviously we are made to believe that the common man is suffering in the interest of the nation.
For some alien reason, the Asian Development Bank has not shared the optimism of the government. They told the bourgeoisie in clear terms that the rental power plants will not be cost effective. So what did the bourgeoisie do? They obviously went ahead with the project since it was in their ‘common good’ and they comprise the nation.
The electricity crisis in the country has been exacerbated with the Rental Power Plants operating at less than 50 per cent of their actual capacity since the government is finding it hard to make payments for fuel that is required to produce more electricity. The circular debt has further contributed to debilitate the economy with power distributors such as the KESC, Pepco, Hubco and state owned fuel suppliers like Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and partially state owned Pak Arab Refinery (PARCO) being ensnared in the ‘circular debt’ trap.
What one fails to understand is if the Government is at the same time, the debtor and the creditor, why is it not showing readiness to solve this dilemma? Is it lack of will or lack of vision?
These failures can be attributed not only to the absence of vision or a lack of will but it points towards the culpability of the ruling class in looting and plundering the tax payers money.
According to a report by the Auditor General of Pakistan, there have been massive levels of irregularities in multi-million dollar power plants that have costed the national exchequer to the tune of $ 557 million. Yet the government continues unabated, investing in the RPPs.
According to reports, the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses of electricity were recorded at 19.3 billion units or 20.3 per cent of the total power generated was lost in last year alone. If calculated at an average per unit rate of 7.5 per unit, the total loss of revenue amounts to Rs 145 billion. This points out to the level of incompetence of the concerned authorities.
This does not in any case absolve the democratically elected government from their failure to invest in mega power projects during the last four years. The present government very conveniently blames the previous one for leaving the country in this quagmire. Their criticism does have some merit to it as the previous government failed to anticipate this power short fall and invest in projects to overcome this problem, however the present bourgeoisie cannot be forgiven for their inaction as well. RPP’s at present are producing only 62 MW of energy pointing to the glaring fact that the government’s uni-dimensional policy of investing in RPP’s has failed miserably.
Thar Coal Project
Despite Pakistan facing an unprecedented energy crisis, the ruling class continues to ignore the long term Thar Coal Underground Gasification (TCUG) project by denying funds to the initiative.
Thar Coal is one of the 5th largest coal reservoir in the world having a total of 850 Trillion cubic feet of reserves which can possibly enable Pakistan to produce enough electricity to power the entire country for the next 4 to 5 decades if not more. The reserves are so massive that they dwarf the oil reserves of 375 billion barrels of Saudi Arabia & Iran put together.
Given these statistics it only makes sense for the Government to invest in this project however sources within the Ministry of Petroleum have alluded that the Government has allocated a paltry amount of Rs2.5 million for the project that is being headed by the leading nuclear scientist and member planning commission Dr Samar Mubarakmand. The estimated total cost for the completion of this project stands at Rs126.649 million.
The head of the Project Dr Samar was quoted by media as having said that Thar Coal Project had the potential to turn Pakistan into an energy surplus country in a short span of 8 to 10 years. According to him, Pakistan can produce 50,000 MW of electricity for another 100 years and produce 100 million barrels of oil for 500 years. Electricity produced from the Thar coal deposit is said to cost only Rs 4 per unit, compared to Rs 14.74/KWh being generated by the RPP’s.
Investing in this project will most certainly change the fate of this country. If the government is serious in resolving the power crisis then instead of relying on ad-hocism as they have done in the past they would work urgently towards releasing funds for the completion of Thar Underground gasification project.
If they continue with their oxymoronic policies, then they would simply go on to prove that democracy is indeed the best revenge – from the people of Pakistan who brought these knaves and robbers to power.