PM orders probe into PTI-era economy losses

Khalid Mustafa
Thursday, Aug 11, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif here on Wednesday ordered relevant authorities to complete an inquiry commission in the next 7 to 10 days with the mandate to probe the losses the country sustained in all sectors of the economy during the PTI government’s tenure of three years and eight months. It will also probe the damages incurred on account of the previous government’s questionable strategy in the energy sector.

The premier ordered this in a high-level meeting summoned on the energy issues here on Wednesday, top government functionaries who were part of the meeting told The News.

“The prime minister also discussed in the meeting with top mandarins of the energy ministry a story that appeared on August 8 in The News about PTI govt preferring costly power generation over cheaper renewable energy,” the officials said.

The prime minister, the officials said, also ordered to update him with regard to details in the head of fuel price adjustments done during the PTI government’s tenure. The News on August 8, 2022, while referring to the official data, highlighted that “the PTI government generated 28 billion units of electricity since 2019 from power plants based on residual furnace oil at the cost of Rs30 per unit. This means that the total cost incurred on electricity generated from furnace oil stands at Rs840 billion. In its place, if the renewable projects pending since 2018 had been completed and commissioned at a fast pace, the cost of electricity generation of the new renewable projects would have been at Rs196 billion at Rs7 per unit. And this is how electricity end consumers were forced to pay an additional amount of Rs644 billion to the furnace oil lobby. This also caused a massive surge in the circular debt.”

The commission will also look into why RLNG projects were used to run on diesel by the PTI government and why it had not prioritised cheaper electricity from the coal-based power plants. The Inquiry Commission will also look into the losses in the petroleum sector the country braved during the PTI government. The PTI government has failed to set up new LNG infrastructure in the country, including setting up new LNG terminals and erecting the North-South Gas Pipeline to cater to future needs of the country. The Inquiry Commission will also look at why the PTI government and top management of Pakistan LNG Limited (PLL) did not ink LNG agreement when it was available at $4 per MMBTU. And why the PLL management didn’t initiate the process some six months back to ink a term agreement with any LNG trading company knowing the fact the five-year contract with GUNVOR will end in July 2022. The PLL will also be taken to task as to why it did not allow the private sector to import LNG under third-party access rules knowing the fact that PLL itself failed to procure the LNG from the international spot market as per the country’s needs.

In the meeting it was decided not only to complete the renewable projects pending since 2018 at the earliest but to also set up solar power plants of 14,000 MWs in the country. Out of these, solar power of 9,000 MWs will be ensured in the national grid as soon as possible.

The prime minister also said in the meeting that the PTI government had announced Alternate Energy Policy in 2020 but it failed to attract investment to the country. He said that solar power plants will be used for electricity in place of power plants that are based on imported fuel. This is how the country will not only save its forex reserves but will also enable the masses to procure cheaper electricity.

The announcement of a solar policy that was to be announced by August 1 has been delayed and now it may be announced by the end of the current month. The government wants to end the electricity crisis by next summer by bridging the generation gap with solar energy. It will prefer to use electricity from solar plants during day time and load-based power plants will be operated in the nighttime. This strategy will help bring down the power tariff by 20-30 percent.