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Ministers blame each other for power crisis before prime minister

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Monday had to face embarrassment when, in a meeting, two of his ministers and one adviser kept on blaming each other for the endemic power crisis, a senior official who attended the meeting told The News.

The PM urged the ministries of petroleum, finance and water and power to coordinate and work collectively and ensure that the gap between the demand and supply of power was minimised.

The prime minister, however, came down heavily on the dismal performance of electric power distribution companies (Discos) in terms of recovery of bills and asked for zero tolerance if ample supply of electricity to masses was not ensured.

Finance, petroleum, water and power ministers along with their secretaries were present in the meeting. The chief executives of all Discos were also there.

According to the official, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources adopted the stance that ministries of water and power and finance were not paying PSO for import of furnace oil and the dues of PSO have swelled to over Rs230 billion. The official said Dr Asim Hussain adopted an aggressive posture, saying if Rs15 billion were not paid immediately, PSO will become a defaulter. The meeting was told that the receivables of Discos have swelled to over Rs408 billion of which the federal government and its attached departments owe Rs125 billion, the provinces Rs50 billion and the private sector Rs197 billion.

The prime minister expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of Discos, which had failed to effectively increase the recovery rate of electricity bills. He directed the CEOs of all companies to ensure maximum raise in the recovery rate. He said he had great hopes from the Secretaries’ Committee which comprises federal secretaries of finance, petroleum and water and power.

The prime minister said that the Secretaries’ Committee should ensure uninterrupted supply of fuel for optimal generation from power plants and should also come up with doable suggestions to improve the entire energy chain from generation to distribution.

He said that despite financial constraints the government has been providing Rs250billion annual subsidy to reduce the burden on consumers. This subsidy works out on average to be Rs3.50 per unit. Unfortunately, this relief has not received public appreciation, the prime minister observed.

The PM directed Nepra to work out an upfront tariff for investors interested in alternative energy projects like wind and solar energy. This would help the investor in making his decision to invest in this sector without going through complicated and complex procedures of seeking tariff in each case. He said that there should be zero tolerance for those who do not pay electricity bills. He directed the ministry of water and power to redouble efforts to recover all outstanding dues. “Consumers who make full payments should not suffer for defaulters”.

The prime minister said that after the NFC Award the provincial governments have a better fiscal space. He appreciated a proposal that the provinces should pool their finances and invest for the construction of hydel power projects.

Earlier, chairman Wapda briefed the prime minister on various hydel power projects including Allai Khwar (Battagram), Jinnah Hydropower (Mianwali), Gomal Zam Dam (South Waziristan Agency), Satpara Dam (Skardu), Duber Khwar (Kohistan), Jabban Hydropower (Malakand) and Laraib HPP, which has a total capacity of 487 MW and would be connected to the national grid by March 2013.

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