Needless to emphasise that when the PML-N took over the reins of the government about two and half years back, Pakistan was confronted with formidable challenges. The economy was in a shambles; law and order situation was precarious and a grave energy crisis with incapacitating manifestations loomed on the country. The situation looked grim but certainly not discouraging vis-à-vis the commitment and enthusiasm of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who took these gigantic challenges head on. Today, the whole perspective has transformed into optimism for the real change is already in the making. The necessity-driven policy initiatives and the economic agenda pursued by the government during the last two and a half years have started bearing fruit in terms of a progressive turnaround in economy. The major economic indicators are pointing towards healthy prospects for a prosperous future. After the slack growth prior to 2013, the overall GDP grew by 4.24 per cent by the end of fiscal year 2014-15, the highest in the last seven years. Per capita income recorded significant growth of 9.25 percent reaching $1,512 in 2014-15, while inflation has been curtailed to a single digit.
It was with herculean courage and perseverance that the present leadership undertook to bring an upturn to the dismal atmosphere pervading the country. While on the one hand, the government paid attention to restoring law and order, it encouraged a culture of political accommodation and tolerance, on the other. The government successfully tried to take political leadership and other stakeholders on board relating major national issue. This helped restore peoples’ confidence by assuring them participation in decision making in line with the spirit of true democratic dispensation.
It goes without saying that Pakistan has been facing serious energy crisis during the last decade or so. This has not only resulted in an economic slow-down, but is also reflective of the poor performance of successive governments. While a variety of factors can be cited for this worrisome state of affairs, poor governance, incompetence, lack of transparency, distribution and transmission losses and above all lack of interest on the part of the policy makers intensified. Large amounts, Rs300-400 billion were spent on subsidies with no plausible gains in sight. Ironically, despite these dole outs, the ‘circular debt’ kept on piling up which caused acute shortages of oil supplies to the power generating units. Resultantly, power generation was seriously retarded resulting in prolonged hours of load shedding (10 to 14 hours) and frequent breakdowns in power supply to domestic and industrial consumers. The high cost of electricity produced by inefficient power units was transferred to the consumers, putting an unnecessary burden on their incomes.
It was against this backdrop that the Nawaz government took up to address the energy crisis on top priority basis, not only to provide relief to domestic consumers but also to put the wheels of industry in motion, thereby accelerating economic activity. Major emphasis of the well-deliberated energy policy prescription has been:
a. Installation of new power plants based on local and non-traditional resources like coal, gas, wind and solar energy.
b. Uniform load shedding schedule for the whole country.
c. Reduction in load shedding for domestic consumers i.e. 06 hours in cities and 08 hours in the rural areas, excepting areas with high incidence of theft. No load shedding at Sehri, Iftar and Traweeh prayers during Ramadan.
d. Exemption of industrial sector from load shedding except in the month of January and Ramadan
e. Preference to low cost power units to reduce cost of generation and consumer tariffs.
f. Adequate supply of furnace oil to power plants for maximum generation.
g. Improvement of transmissions system of the distribution companies.
h. Reducing or eliminating circular debts.
It is satisfying that as a result of the prudent and bold policy initiatives; the present government has been able to achieve historic success in overcoming the energy crisis. The National Power Policy was announced that envisages providing affordable electricity through efficient generation, transmission and distribution system. To begin with, the government promptly retired the long outstanding circular debt of Rs480 billion which resulted in adding 1,752 MW to the national grid, thereby providing instant relief to the people. It was for the first time that electricity generation stood at the record level of 16,890 MW in July 2015.Load shedding hours have been reduced from 12 hours in 2013 to 06 hours in 2015 for urban and industrial consumers while from 14 hours to 08 hours for rural consumers. Financial relief was provided to the consumers by reducing electricity tariff to the extent of Rs2.00 to Rs4.30 per unit. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the first solar power project with a capacity of 100MW on 05 may 2015. The CPEC portfolio encompasses early harvest projects of 10,400 MW and actively promoted projects of 6,645 MW. About 12,000 MW hydropower projects are currently under process
Various energy projects presently being pursued on top priority are designed to produce 43,127 MW of electricity by 2018-19. In this respect, the efforts of Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Federal Minister for Water and Power deserve special mention who is stewarding the massive power generation drive of the PML-N government. The obsessive commitment of Mohammad Younus Dagha, Federal Secretary, Water and Power, is equally commendable in leading Pakistan towards self-sufficiency in power generation.
The present government believes that there is a genuine need to focus on indigenous natural resources such as coal, wind, solar energy and hydro power, in order to permanently resolve the energy crisis. The government is, therefore, giving special preference to the provinces in the development of energy infrastructure in the country. While concentrating on utilising the coal deposits in Sindh, it has embarked upon LNG, solar energy and even coal projects in Punjab.
The abundant hydel resources in the KP province including the 1,000 MW CASA hydroelectricity from Tajikistan are the prime target for power development in KP. In Balochistan, the principal focus of the CPEC, the government is constructing two coal power plants at Gawadar and Hubco in addition to the import of 1,100 MW from Iran, which will add 2,720 MW to the system. Similarly, in Gilgit Baltistan, an ideal area for large water reservoirs, the government is working on massive hydropower projects like Diamer Bhasha, Satpapra Dam and Bonji, which will produce 12,000 MW electricity on completion. A number of projects including Neelum-Jehlum with a total capacity of 4,000 MW are at different stages of completion in Azad Kashmir. It is evident that the portfolio of energy projects is fairly distributed among various provinces according to their specific resource potential.
It must, however, be borne in mind that mere enhancing power generation capacity will not serve the purpose without refurbishing the entire distribution and transmission system, instituting better governance in the sector, minimising losses and checking theft. Nonetheless, given the political will and support of the stakeholders, Pakis-
tan will undoubtedly surmount the energy crises by the end of the present term
of the PML-N government, Insha Allah.