Newly-elected Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi faces a huge challenge in his first hundred days. How to end load shedding that has resurfaced in recent days? With extreme humidity and localised tripping of distribution lines and transformers in many parts, demand heaved past 23,500MW against maximum supplies of about 18,500MW on Tuesday.
In addition to the increasing demand, transmission lines close to Rawat broke down, cloaking the capital in darkness for a couple of hours. Supplies from some new power plants like Haveli Bahadur Shah, Bhikki and Sahiwal have remained unpredictable due to teething problems appearing out of their reliability test runs.
The problem of circular debt has become worsefollowing the surge in oil prices. PM Abbasi has the unenviable task of fixing this situation but hopes are high given his past experience. Abbasi has already restructured the energy ministry while merging the water, power and petroleum divisions. PM Abbasi has also constituted a committee comprising managers from the water, power and petroleum divisions, Prime Minister’s Office, Private Power and Infrastructure Board, Central Power Purchase Agency, and National Transmission and Dispatch Company. This is a welcome decision, as energy issues require sector wide planning and removal of bureaucratic hurdles that impair the business of the government.
Needless to say PM Abbasi and his colleagues have a daunting task ahead of them. At this point, amidst all the political instability facedby the ruling party, the government already has a lot on its plate. Long pending reforms and other investments are required to secure water and energy security and with a year left in office, it is unlikely that the government will achieve much. Still, it could set a direction and if the parliament is involved then a multiparty consensus can be built on the long-term proposals so that the next government continues with the reforms.
Thus far PML-N has not been able to deliver on the promises made during 2013 elections Will Abbasi be able to curb this problem by November as he claimed? With the current state of affairs and the shaky nature of democratic governance, the much-needed reforms are likely to be delayed. We are back to quick fixes and stopgap solutions.
Daily Times, August 10, 2017