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Governance of natural gas sector needs improvement

The natural gas shortages clearly indicate that overall governance of the gas sector needs improvement, said experts.

The growing energy shortages have made the life difficult for Pakistanis across the board. The quality of life of citizens has deteriorated, they said, adding that the economic growth rates have been stunted and the industry and agriculture have suffered.

This was the crux of a policy dialogue on the “Role of government and regulators in the gas sector of Pakistan” with parliamentarians, policymakers, regulators and civil society organisations.

The dialogue was held under the aegis of Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan (CRCP) in collaboration with the USAID Citizens’ Voice Project.

The participants, including Dr Mussarat Hassan, MPA, PPPP, Amna Ulfat, MPA, PML-Q, Prof Dr Junaid Mughal, senior professor of Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute (GIKI), and others were of the view that the government of Pakistan has not yet recognised the magnitude of the crisis and its effect on the people and the economy.

The government has to take immediate measures to address, manage and reduce the impact of the crisis, they said, adding that the reasons for present crisis in gas sector have both technical and governance aspects.

Pakistan’s gas requirements are growing rapidly, while the domestic gas production is not growing at the same pace. Primary energy consumption in the country has grown by almost 80 percent over the last 15 years from 34 million tons oil equivalent (TOEs) in 1994-95 to 60 million TOEs in 2010-11 and has supported an average GDP growth rate in the country of around 4.5 percent per annum, they said.

The dialogue has given insight into the current situation of transparency, public participation and accountability processes in the gas sector. The intervention is likely to result in enhanced understanding of the sectoral issues for the stakeholders.

Most important of all, it is expected to inform the policymakers, especially the peoples’ representatives about the governance situation of the sector and would persuade them to take positive actions for sectoral improvement, they said.

In Pakistan, industrial and fertiliser sectors are getting gas on subsidised rates, while the compressed natural gas (CNG) filling stations are being subject to an exorbitantly high tariff regime, neglecting the peoples’ interest.

The gas consumers’ woes could not be resolved unless Pakistan had an autonomous regulator free of political interference, they said. Besides, the problems could not be resolved without improving peoples’ access to information, putting in place a system of strict penalties on consumers involved in gas pilferage and non-payment of gas bills.

The Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan recommends effective governance and regulation of sector along with formulation of gas policy and rationalise pricing and subsidies.

It demanded that the burden of inefficiencies should not be passed on to the consumers in the shape of unaccounted for gas (UFG). Stress was also given on effective and professional governance, as well as on protecting the rights of the citizens.

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