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Editorial

October 12, 2017

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Demand for energy data

Demand for energy data

Proposed regulatory reforms in the oil and gas sectors have been plagued by differences between the centre and the provinces over the exploration, distribution and compensation for energy in the country. The latest proposal by the provinces – for the federal government to share real-time data on the production of oil, gas and electricity in the country with the provinces – could represent a chance for a breakthrough. Making this data available would give the provinces a better idea of how much energy they are producing and consuming and could lead to developing a fairer formula for sharing revenues. The provinces have complained about the supply of electricity, and there is also a feeling that they are being deliberately shortchanged. Being able to monitor the production of electricity would assuage their concerns. The proposal will now be taken up at meetings of the Inter-Provincial Coordination Committee and the Council of Common Interests where the only stumbling block is the possible objection of the federal government and Punjab.         By itself, the change will not address the problems the smaller provinces have but it will give them the data on which to base any future reforms.

The federal government, however, is keen on further centralisation in the distribution and allocation of resources. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had recently proposed setting up a Pakistan Petroleum Exploration and Production Authority whose members would be appointed by the centre. That idea was shot down by the provinces and will now be discussed by the Council of Common Interests. Balochistan and Sindh, in particular, are angry about facing acute gas shortages despite being the largest producers of gas in the country. Sindh has repeatedly complained that the centre is violating the constitution by tasking to the Economic Coordination Committee power reforms which should be the domain of the Council of Common Interests. For Balochistan, the exploitation of its natural resources has long been a source of anger and alienation. The centre isn’t being helped by its reliance on the World Bank, which has been an integral part of the reforms process and is pushing for greater centralisation. An equal role for the provinces in the gas and oil sectors is not just a question of economic fairness but one of political stability as well. The proposal to share real-time data should thus be accepted and used as a starting point for more comprehensive devolutionary reforms.

 

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