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0.08pc Balochistan solar energy can serve national needs

Solar Energy APF chief wants risk-averse banks to extend energy finances Says corruption, lack of good governance, security keeping investors at bay

Being a patriotic Pakistani one tends to do some good for his homeland only to find a deep-rooted corruption, lack of good governance, transparency and well-thought-out policies hindering his way in one way or another. Awais Khan, the president and chief executive of American Pakistan Foundation (APF), is one such overseas Pakistani who is striving hard to bring economic development and social change in, what he believes to be, a resource-rich Pakistan. Policymakers in Pakistan are desperately wandering here and there to find a sustainable solution to the fast ingraining energy crises in the country. Khan, who lives outside Pakistan, has a clearer vision to find a ‘scalable’ remedy to this economy-crippling menace. Pakistan, he says, through employing right governance and a well-thought-out energy policy, could generate thousands of megawatts electricity using its vast but still untapped sources of solar, hydro, hydroelectric, wind and waste energy scattered across the country. Khan, a leading American businessman of Pakistani origin, refers to a study revealing that if tapped only 0.08 per cent of the solar energy reserves in Balochistan province could cater to energy needs of the entire country. “The banks could step up to lease and finance the energy equipment,” APF chief said during a roundtable discussion with a group of journalists here at the residence of the US Consul General. Singling out the fast disappearing energy-crises-hit cottage industry, the investment banker said the country has a potential of generating 43,000MW electricity using hydro and hydroelectric energy sources available in the country’s northern areas. Some 50,000MW of wind power could be generated from the coastal corridor stretching from Karachi to Gwadar, Balochistan. Khan said agri-waste like cow dung, etc could also be used for energy generation in the country. Lack of funding, energy policy, security and corruption are major stumbling blocks, APF chief underlined, for achieving these goals. “There are lots of (financing) vehicles but not a lot of people know how to access these vehicles,” Khan lamented. He said multilateral finders like World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) were present in the country to fund these mega energy projects but, unfortunately, 99.9 per cent of the local institutions were falling short of meeting the “broader criterion” set for getting funding from these multinational organisations. Institutional capacity building, bringing domestic work standards at par with that of international ones and experienced and skilled managers are the three prerequisites, Khan said, constituting this broader funding criterion. The risk-averse banks, he said, could bridge this financial gap through extending more advances to the private individual and institutional borrowers willing to install the sophisticated energy generating equipment. Khan complained about the deeply-ingrained corruption in Pakistan which deters his organisation, APF, from working on big projects. “To a personal perspective, I found it (corruption) a frequent occurrence and biggest challenge besides security,” Khan told the journalists. “To get permission from the government (to undertake a certain project) a lot of under-the-table things happen,” he elaborated. Attributing this menace to lack of right system and right people, the American businessman urged the need for creating political awareness among voters in the forthcoming general elections. “Tell them that your vote matters so use it in right way,” Khan urged the journalists. For making entrepreneurship a success story in Pakistan, the APF CEO suggested an easy access to cheap capital, good governance, a right legal system and a business-friendly security climate which he said was lacking in case of Pakistan. “Pakistan has been suffering from the image issue. And number one concern of every entrepreneur is whether my people and finances are safe,” he said. About APF, Khan said the privately-funded organisation had a goal to provide one million individuals with energy by 2015 under its “rural electrification” plan in areas the most neglected or where the need was more pressing. He said, having benefited over 42,000 flood affectees in Pakistan, APF was set up in Dec 2009 to leverage the Pak-American diaspora for economic development and social change in Pakistan.

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