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Why do we wait for crises to go out of hand?

Islamabad

January 16, 2015

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Islamabad
After braving several crises one after another, the residents of twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad are reeling from the sudden shortage of petrol and diesel yet again. And we are not alone, the rest of Punjab and even residents of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are also facing the same problem.
These days, the hottest topic of the town is ‘where can we find petrol?’ When you talk to the operators at dispensers of filling stations or their managers, they blame shortage of supply from depots for the irregularity in availability of petrol and diesel on their end, whereas motorcyclists and motorists standing in long queues in front of some of the open filling stations in the twin cities, as around 90 per cent filling are shut, blame the blackmailing tactics of fuel companies, depots and filling stations for their worries. They accuse them for being in hand in glove in creating artificial shortage to such proportion. Some even go to the extent of accusing oil companies of using pressure tactics to stop the government from making further cut in fuel prices in the wake of plummeting oil prices in the international market.
However, the main point to ponder over in the current scenario is the circular debt of Pakistan State Oil (PSO), the major fuel importer and supplier of the country which has reportedly swelled to around Rs600 billion and in case the government does not bail it out this time around like the last time we will not be relieved of our problems. It merits mentioning here that in 2013, the PML-N government after coming into power in a single go conducted the largest retirement of the circular debt close to Rs500bn to the power producers at that time easing the pressure of circular debt. Now with the liquidity crisis deepening in PSO, the state-owned oil marketing company needs another breather because if it is not done within days there is every likelihood the whole country will be shut down because at retail outlets people are finding

it hard to get petrol and diesel. Whereas currently when the country is already trembling under the energy crisis of electricity and gas, if supply of furnace oil is stopped there is every chance of prolonged blackouts in the country.
There is a general perception that during such crises when there is a gap in supply and demand of products; people tend to go for bulk buying, which also extends the enormity of the crisis. But there is no doubt that every person whether he is riding a BMW or a Chinese motorcycle needs fuel and expects of the government to provide it to public.
“Why didn’t the government foresee the crisis and took remedial measures to avoid it and now when it is happening nothing on ground is happening. We are running from pillar to post to get some drops of fuel to run our vehicles, but there is no clear policy from the concerned quarters to relax the nerves of public,” said a disgruntled motorcyclist, Nazir Ahmad, waiting in a haphazardly formed queue at a fuel station at Commercial Market. He said he has called his boss in the office and told him that he is waiting to get petrol from a filling station and will be late for office.
Another motorist questioned why we wait for crises to go out of hand. And his query is worth pondering over because this is not the first instance of fuel shortage in the country, and probably will not be last, but the question remains whether we will be done with it rather sooner than later, and will we take remedial steps to counter such instances to stop their re-occurrence every now and then.

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