Staggering from crisis to crisis

As the gas crisis tightens its grip, a wheat crisis builds up

The country is in the midst of a gas crisis, with a shortage of natural gas hitting both industrial and commercial establishments, as well as residential users. The proposal to limit domestic use to mealtimes was not just considered but adopted, and only the realization of how unpopular this would be made the government rolled back the decision. At the same time, it should not be forgotten that the crisis itself was caused by the government’s own lackadaisicalness at the right time. There has been no extraordinary upsurge in demand, and it was known well in advance that LNG had to be imported to meet the winter’s need. Orders were not placed, and now gas terminals in Karachi are empty, because LNG cargoes were not booked in time.

As if the gas shortage, made manifest in low pressures, was not enough, a wheat shortage is brewing up. Mills have forthright said that they are unable to continue at present rates. Does the government now intend to import flour, after it has managed to turn Pakistan from a self-supporting country into a net importer of wheat? Again, this was an issue that could have been predicted. The threat of a strike is not being made by rabble rousers, but by hard-headed businessmen. The reservations which are coming forward now so explosively, should have been dealt with in September, when the Food Department formulated its release policy.

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Does the government take food security seriously enough? Where the PTI federal government has gone after people’s meals by pinching the gas they cook with, its Punjab government is following policies that will deprive people of flour, not that they could cook it. Both problems have been caused by a failure to engage in the most elementary planning.

It may not be possible for the government to do anything about gas supplies at the moment, but someone should remember that this is exactly what caused a gas shortage last year. It should not happen next year. The same may apply to milling. Millers are amenable to negotiations. That will solve the problem this year. But next year, the issue must be dealt with in the summer, rather than waiting for winter.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]


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