PM stresses effective strategy for gas sector to address shortage, circular debt challenges

APP59-09 ISLAMABAD: September 09 - Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the seminar on Natural Gas Supply. APP

ISLAMABAD, Sep 9 (APP): Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said natural gas sector in the country was facing imminent challenges of resource shortage and circular debt, and stressed a long-term strategy keeping in view national interests to address the issues.

Addressing at a seminar on ‘Sustainability, security and affordability of natural gas supply in Pakistan’, the Prime Minister said long-term planning on national matters was more important, rather than the approach by previous governments of taking short-term steps to appease voters for next elections.

The Seminar, organized by Petroleum Division to deliberate upon the issues related to gas sector, witnessed a strong participation by provinces besides corporate heads and experts
joining the platform for a meaningful discourse for way forward.

The Prime Minister said the country had started facing the problem of shortage of natural gas with the issue getting worsened in winter season.

With depletion of indigenous gas reserves, he said it was becoming difficult for the country to rely on expensive imported commodity due to big difference in rates.

He expressed the concern that after electricity, the gas sector was also experiencing circular debts and also warned of its snowball effect in future.

The Prime Minister said only 27 percent of Pakistanis were getting piped gas, while the rest of population depended on other resources like Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG).

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He mentioned that he was also among those using LPG, which cost four times as compared to the piped supply of subsidized natural gas.

Imran Khan said the main reasons of giving subsidy to any sector was either to uplift down-trodden or create wealth to ultimately increase Gross Domestic Product. However, in Pakistan, he regretted that majority of subsidies were being given to the already stable and sound sectors, besides the wealth generated being diverted to payment of debts.

He said there would have been no shortage of resources and burden on common people, had the country started planning 40 years ago to meet its energy energy demands.
“Today, we are in state of fire-fighting due to lack of planning for finding sustainable solutions to important problems,” he said.

The Prime Minister said timely planning by the previous governments could have led to exploration of additional energy resources in the country.

To the concerns of provinces regarding their share in divisible pool, he said the federal government could only share from the money whatever it collected through taxes.
On electricity generation, Imran Khan thanked the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) for renegotiating their contracts with the government and said the public would be updated about the details of these agreements by the next week.

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He said Pakistan had been generating cheap hydroelectric electricity for long, however the apathy towards promoting this sector resulted in expensive commodity.

The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction over the holding of a national debate on gas sector, which would prove helpful not only important in arriving at conclusions based on expertise, but would also giving correct information to media for further public consumption.

He said in absence of information based on knowledgeable debates, the otherwise opinion disseminated through media could involve the risk of creating rifts among the nation on important issues.

“Healthy and informational debates are the real power of democracy that open vistas of solutions to the problems concerning general public,” he said.

Imran Khan mentioned that the United Kingdom encouraged debate on Brexit within its society with population divided half and half over the matter of leave or remain.

He said even the Communist Party of China, though not an electoral democracy, had always been promoting in-depth debates on national issues.

The seminar gathered officials and experts on gas sector with group discussions held on issues related to gas sector including supply options, financial sustainability and costs.