ISLAMABAD: As the nation grapples with bloated power bills and backbreaking inflation, interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar told people to pay their utility bills since there was no way around it, adding that negotiations with global lenders on the issue were underway.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday at the Prime Minister’s House, Mr Kakar blamed successive governments over the past 30 years for the economic mess and announced that a plan was being devised to reform agriculture, minerals, information technology, and textile sectors. He claimed there were minerals worth $5 trillion in Balochistan.
He also made a new promise to power consumers, saying the government would announce a relief package regarding future consumption of electricity. “We will announce a relief package for electricity consumers in two days, but I cannot share its details because people will start criticising us if we cannot fulfil our promise for any reason,” the premier said.
The statement ended a week-long uncertainty which was fuelled by his own remarks as well as his ministers’ who had promised ‘immediate’ relief.
A day earlier, interim Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar ruled out any relief and blamed IMF agreements for this.
It may be noted that a large number of people had missed the deadline for electricity bills, waiting for some relief measure, due to the promises of relief made by the government.
Speaking about the agreement with IMF, the interim PM said the government would fulfil Pakistan’s agreements with multi-financial institutions “at any cost” and would not allow any deviation in this regard.
“We have no ulterior motive, plan or larger-than-life grand ambitions for which we are speaking here,” he said. “It is not like oppressive rulers have come to power and are sucking the blood of the poor. “If someone is thinking like this, then they must shun this thought,” he said.
Power sector issues
PM Kakar recalled that in the 90s, load-shedding came forth as a challenging problem and governments entered into contracts with independent power producers (IPPs) to increase power production.
“But we did not realise the repercussions of those contracts which included paying a surcharge,” he said, pointing out that there were problems in transmission systems and the bill recovery process. The prime minister noted that while power bills were being burnt in one part of a city, electricity of around 200mw to 400mw was being pilfered.
“When our population was growing, we did not realise that our power structure remained dependent on fossil fuels and imported fuel. Whatever we were doing was on foreign reserves [in dollars] and that is impacting our other governance aspects.”