Can PTI govt afford to bat more hornets’ nests?

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 04:31 PM, 22 Apr, 2020
Can PTI govt afford to bat more hornets’ nests?

The fast-spreading coronavirus, as a result of which the death toll in the country is going up with the passage of time, is giving the rulers sleepless nights.

The pandemic has also seriously affected the already weak national economy. Prolonged lockdowns and closure of all sorts of businesses have thrown tens of thousands of workers in various walks of life out of jobs. The government is having to divert resources, allocated for various sectors, to help the victims and save others from falling prey.

The return of tens of thousands of Pakistanis leaving their jobs abroad is creating a difficult situation at home, whose complete impact will take long to become clear.

To grapple with the multiplying problems the government is having to seek more and more foreign loans/assistance.

At the same time, the national and provincial budgets have to be prepared and got approved during the next few weeks.

The challenges are so many that the government has no time even for proverbial head-scratching. Still, new fronts are being opened that have the potential to change the political scene.

Sugar/wheat crises have already unmasked the elements who, while sitting in government, earned billions. More “tremors” will be felt when the forensic report of the twin crises will be made public. Initially, the report was due to be made public on April 25, but now federal minister Sheikh Rashid says the same has been delayed by five to ten days.

The situation is already very explosive and the PTI government has now decided to take the private power companies by the horns. It’s a powerful mafia that will retaliate with full force to save their financial interests.

Before sharing the report on how the IPPs allegedly robbed the exchequer of trillions of rupees, a question arises: Will the government be able to fight on all the above-mentioned fronts successfully? Will not the opposition parties try to exploit the situation? Will the country not plunge into a new and deeper crisis during the next few weeks/ months, especially after the presentation of the national budget? Will the elements the government plans to proceed against not join hands to try to bring new faces to power?

The PTI leadership must find answers to these questions before batting a new hornets’ nest. Without taking adequate protective measures against the “political corona”, the ruling party’s war against mafias, no matter how justifiable, will be suicidal. In a country where political situation changes overnight when the masters want, the government will have to take all factors into consideration before embarking on new missions against elements that have bled the country’s economy white.    

And now the inquiry report on IPPs.

The report, prepared by a government committee, reveals that the national exchequer suffered a loss of more than Rs 4,802 billion during the past 13 years at the hands of Independent Power Producers.

It says 16 IPPs made a huge profit of Rs 415 billion by investing only Rs 50.8 billion. The report also revealed that power plants used less fuel for the power production but showed its usage many times more.

The report said that six companies made 60 to 79 percent annual profits, while four earned 40 percent annual profits.

According to the report the cost of electricity generation increased by 148 percent in the last 15 years. The IPPs also misled National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) on tariff issue and expensive LNG was provided to the plants.

In its recommendations, the inquiry committee has said that power plants should be given profit rate in rupees instead of dollars.

It suggested that no new power plant should be set up for next few years and the government should also suspend work on under-construction power plants.

It was also stated in the inquiry report that the heat rate audit of all fuel-powered IPPs should be carried out and action be taken against the units that provided false information.

The committee also suggested that negotiations with IPPs be initiated on the issue of selling expensive electricity. A technical ministry should be created by restructuring the power division and additional petroleum levy should be imposed to eliminate circular debt.

Categories : Opinion