Thursday, 23 Jul, 2009 | 01:09 AM PST
WITH power protests continuing unabated across the country, President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani have attempted to intervene in the crisis. The president has talked of the need for out-of-the box solutions to the unprecedented crisis while the prime minister has constituted a high-powered cabinet committee which, according to a report in Dawn, will “make a fresh study of the situation and formulate short- and long-term strategies to overcome the crisis”. It is good that the power crisis is attracting the attention of the highest officials in the land and if some good can come out of their initiatives then we wholeheartedly support them. However, some points need to be noted. With summer in full swing, it is not so much a time for crisis resolution as simply crisis management. While power generation, transmission and distribution cannot be overhauled in days or weeks that does not mean nothing can be done in the near term. Where circular debt has hamstrung electricity generation, the federal government and finance ministry can try harder to find emergency solutions. Where the distribution companies have been unable to provide electricity to neighbourhoods for days on end, the government can hold them to account or the local authorities can lend them whatever support is needed to see the next few weeks through.
At the power generation end, the government’s latest proposals raise some troubling questions. Last year, coal was touted as the nation’s saviour, and talk centred on untapped coal mines being able to power the country for 1,000 years. Yet, nothing concrete has emerged until now. Meanwhile, Pepco keeps referring to the 3,500 MW of new capacity that will be on line by December. Pepco also claims that the power deficit on Monday stood at 2,930 MW. Simple math, then, would suggest that blackouts ought to be over by December. But that seems unlikely to be the case — so are the capacity figures being over-inflated or the deficit understated or is it both? The point is that the nation’s power policy ought to be consistent, transparent and effective. If the president and prime minister ensure that, much of Pakistan’s power woes could be solved at the earliest.