Published Date: Jan 3, 2012
INEQUALITY, ENERGY CRISIS THREATEN NATIONAL STABILITY, SECURITY: EXPERTS
The experts said inequality, energy crisis and poor governance threaten stability and security of the country while social justice and pro-poor governance are must for a peaceful and prosperous future. Imtiaz Gul, Chairman, Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Ali Khizar Aslam, Head of Research, Business Recorder, Karachi, Arshad H. Abbasi, Senior Advisor, Water and Energy, SDPI and Arif Naveed, Senior Research Associate, SDPI spoke at seminar on “Deepening crisis of energy, economy and stability: where do the poor stand?” organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday. Dr Vaqar Ahmad, Head of Economic Growth Unit at SDPI moderated the proceedings and maintained that will and courage is required to deal with the compounding crisis of the country.
Ali Khizar Aslam said Pakistan is currently on the verge of fiscal crisis and recommended reduction on CNG reliance, enhancement in the usage of alternate energy sources such solar power, import of LPG and revision of oil exploration policy. He said energy crisis is a broad-based issue and all the stakeholders are responsible for it including public due to energy-inefficient habits. He said lack of harmony in the policies is a central issue to country’s governance since long. He said, despite lowering availability, gas consumption was massively promoted in the recent years. He said now SMEs and family-run business which are over 90 percent of business sector are seriously suffering. He said unemployment is increasing with sever social repercussions. He said 6 percent fiscal deficit coupled with 2 percent quasi-fiscal operations have reached to over 8 percent accumulative fiscal deficit while foreign financial support remains elusive. He said printing of more currency would further create high inflation which has been over 15 percent in recent past but is now around 9 percent. He said gas reserves are rapidly depleting and hydro consumption has decreased from 38 percent to 33 percent while oil consumption has increased from 18 to 40 percent.
Arshad H. Abbasi said energy crisis has become not only a social crisis but an institutional failure and a challenge to the stability of country. He said transparency and merit, shifting of focus from power sector to renewable sources, completion of under construction hydel projects on fast track basis, and promotion of bio-gas sources are some of the solutions to country’s current problems. He said government in 1994 introduced a policy which diverted focus from hydel to fuel and gas sources. He said gas demand is currently 4.5 billion MMCFD as against the supply of 3.5 billion MMCFD per day. He said we have to shift our focus from burning fossil oil to renewable energy sources. He said cost of electricity generation from hydel source is .37 Paisas per unit whereas it is 7.11 rupees per unit from generating electricity from a power plant which consumes 8-9 MMCFD gas to produce one unit of electricity’ he added and raised questions over the efficiency and effectiveness of NEPRA and OGRA as regulators.
Arif Naveed stated that the inequality of poverty and wellbeing have emerged as serious challenges for Pakistan. He highlighted poverty in the country is differentially distributed along the ethnic lines. While overall poverty in Pakistan is 33%, it is 52 percent in Balochistan and only 19 percent in Punjab.
He elaborated these ethnic differences in poverty are not only evident at the provincial level but also become clearer when the analysis is extended to the district level as strong intra-provincial disparities emerge along ethnic lines. He said in Punjab, the incidence of poverty is very high in Saraiki speaking districts in Southern Punjab and very low among Punjabi speaking districts. He said poverty in KPK is very high in the highland Pashtun districts and very low in Hazara region. He said in Sindh, predominantly Urdu speaking districts in Karachi have low incidence of poverty compared to Sindhi speaking districts.
While the overall poverty is very high in Balochistan, the incidence of poverty is relatively low in Pashtun speaking districts and extremely high in Balochi speaking districts. He maintained the preliminary analysis raises several questions which demand for further prudent analysis. He urged the country should learn from its history particularly separation of Bangladesh and take corrective measures to deal with the ongoing violent struggle in Balochistan and high deprivation elsewhere. ‘Higher levels of deprivation, along ethnic identities have a great potential to cause social unrest, political instability and economic downfall and the state should ensure social justice as its fundamental responsibility’ he went on saying.
Imtiaz Gul said people of Pakistan stand on the roads today due to multiplicity of crisis in the country. He said deep-rooted VIP culture with ever-increasing perks and privileges of ruling elites have pushed the people to the bottom of country’s priorities.
He said poor economy and insecurity have pushed the nation into a social and governance paralysis. He said over emphasis of ruling elites on traditional concept of security particularly Afghan Jihad have created a serious crisis of human security in the country. He said all the chambers of commerce and industries have announced sit-in in front of prime minister house due to energy and economy crisis.
He lamented cartels keep on fleecing the money of poor and cautioned there is a strong likelihood that county could drift in the hands of religio-politico forces. Citing State Bank’s report, he said domestic issues are more decisive and chronic and the country needs a strong political leadership to enable the country and nation to deal with these worsening issues.