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Our Correspondent

The News International

Published Date: Feb 19, 2021

Govt needs to get out of power business

KARACHI: The government needs to get out of the power sector’s business to bring perennial structural problems to an end once and for all, energy experts said on Wednesday.

Speakers, during a webinar, agreed that the government should gradually privatise power sector to improve its efficiency.

“Overreaching influence of the government and the ministry is creating problems for institutions, like Nepra [National Electric Power Regulatory Authority],” said Saadia Qayyum, energy specialist at the World Bank. “We need to strengthen Nepra’s capability. At times, governments do not notify changes in tariffs due to political and other reasons.” The webinar was titled ‘Pakistan’s power policies—ensuring access and affordability’. Miftah Ismail, former finance minister said the power sector should move towards the privatisation in order to solve its long-standing issues. “Albeit challenging, this needs to be done,” said Ismail. “We should move towards multiple buyers.”

The former minister said 12 percent of electricity consumers in Pakistan are not even paying their bills and then the tribal areas have their own set of problems when it comes to accessibility to power.

Shahid Sattar, former Member Energy at the Planning Commission said the competitive trading bilateral contracts market is a ‘façade’. “This will never encourage competition.”

“The government must work and bring about measures to recover money rather than resort to load-shedding in areas where predominantly poor people live,” said Sattar. “The government should get out of the power sector. There is no other way to solve the power problems of the country.”

Sattar said prepaid meters must be installed and subsidies must be passed on to the consumers. The government creates boards in power institutions and falsely claims it is empowering them to make their own decisions. “Take a look at Pepco or any other power institution they are completely controlled by the government,” he said.

Sattar, who is also executive director of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association, said Nepra and Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) have been unable to solve the country’s power and energy issues.

“Ever since Nepra has been formed, Pakistan’s circular debt has worsened whereas Ogra never came up with measures that solved our energy crisis,” he said. “Pakistan’s products are no longer globally competitive. Exports are suffering.”

Hina Aslam, associate research fellow stressed the need for reforms in institutions to bring about much-needed changes in the way the power sector operates.