Deal with IPPs to save billions, cabinet told
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet was informed on Tuesday that over Rs100 billion would be saved every year as a result of the settlement reached with the independent power producers (IPPs), while another Rs100 billion would be saved in two to three years as the rate of ‘return on equity’ had been reduced.
Briefing the media after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz said that the cabinet called for taking steps to provide relief to the people following the settlement of the issues with the IPPs.
“The cabinet was informed that inefficient power plants were being shut down,” Faraz told a post-cabinet meeting press conference. He added 1,479MW plants were being shut down immediately, while 1,460MW plants with poor efficiency would be shut down by September 2022.
The minister said that the previous government made it mandatory for some power plants to buy expensive gas. They were declared as “must-run plants” but their performance was not taken into consideration. However, he added the cabinet was informed that this condition was being removed.
While briefing the ministers on the energy sector reforms, the minister said, Planning Minister Asad Umar told the cabinet that the policy on renewable energy, which had been pending since April 2019, had finally been approved.
The annual report of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) for 2018-19 and the State of Industry Report 2019 were also presented in the cabinet meeting, the information minister told reporters.
He said that steps were being taken to increase the capacity of the K-Electric to overcome power shortage. He said the process would be completed in the three years, adding that 300 to 400 MW would be provided immediately, while efforts were afoot to reduce the utility’s monthly losses.
Regarding the construction of a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at the Port Qasim in Karachi, the minister said that the cabinet had decided that a no-objection certificate (NOC) would be issued in this regard.
The cabinet also approved the launching of ferry service for the convenience of pilgrims. For this purpose, Faraz said, all facilities, including immigration and customs, would be provided by the authorities concerned at the ports for the convenience of passengers.
The cabinet also approved extension of Rangers’ deployment in Sindh for another year at the request of the provincial government. The ministers also approved the establishment of the Capital Mass Transit Authority for Islamabad.
Meanwhile, the cabinet was apprised that out of the total Rs1.16 billion arrears of the media, Rs1 billion had been paid. Faraz said Prime Minister Imran directed the “concerned stakeholders to ensure” recovery of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) official Sajid Gondal.
Commenting on the frequent reshuffle in Punjab, Faraz said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) remained in power for decades and promoted a culture, where officials preferred to protect their own interests more than performing duties.
“Change is a process not an event; it’s not like a button that you press and things are done,” Faraz said. “It’s a process of reform and it continues to evolve.” He added: “Whoever doesn’t perform will be removed.”
Revealing the reason behind the removal of five inspectors general of police (IGPs) in Punjab in the past two years, Faraz said it was the prime minister’s prerogative. “We will change all those who will not perform or agree to the policy. There is nothing to contrite about these things,” he added.
“It’s a continuous war … several people would directly or indirectly confront,” he said, hoping that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government would successfully cross all the obstacles and make them weak the way it made sugar mafia weak.
He said that Jahangir Tareen was a key PTI leader but the party did not see whose name was in the sugar committee’s report when it moved ahead.
Faraz said that the cabinet expressed concern over the loss of lives and properties in different parts of the country, including Sindh, especially in the interior Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and some parts of Punjab as a result of recent rains.
The prime minister told the cabinet that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had been tasked with estimating the losses in collaboration with the provincial governments so that a comprehensive strategy could be formulated to provide relief to the victims.
The prime minister said that Karachi played the role of engine in the country’s economic growth. He added that the development of Karachi was the development of the country, therefore, the federal government was committed to play its role in resolving problems of the city.
Answering a question about the post-rain conditions in Sindh, Faraz said that the situation was bad in the interior Sindh, including in Larkana but added that the federal government would do whatever it could to improve them.
Responding to another question about the shares of the federal and the Sindh governments in the financial package for Karachi in the wake of rain and flood, the minister said that “[Pakistan] Peoples Party [PPP] can’t understand calculation above 10%.”
He clarified that rural Sindh would be given support from the funds other than the package announced for Karachi. The federal government won’t do things for optics as the PPP chairman did the other, he added.
The information minister mentioned that he saw a video showing that tents were being set up before PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto’s arrival in a rain-affected area and removed right after his departure.
Moving to the issues facing resident of Islamabad, the cabinet constituted a committee, comprising law minister, adviser on parliamentary affairs and a representative of the planning ministry for lifting of a ban on the installation of new electricity and gas meters in the capital.
The information minister told reporters that the committee would submit its recommendations within 60 days in line with the rulings given earlier by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and the Supreme Court.
“Electricity and gas connections have been discontinued in different zones of the capital since May 19, 2004,” the minister said, adding that the minister concerned, Islamabad commissioner, IESCO officials and others had been directed to prepare a report so that the issue could be solved.
“We are serious to solve electricity and gas issues … we have three seats from the capital,” Faraz said, adding that the issue was brought on the agenda as the people were still suffering without doing anything wrong.
Faraz reiterated that all those, including the administration, who let all the housing projects go unchecked, should be held responsible.