Pakistan's Electricity Sector in Financial Crisis
The poster child of the waste, fraud and abuse is the Turkish Karkey rental power ship deal which sinks Rs. 780 million or nearly $9 million per month of public funds for providing very little power because of lack of sufficient fuel supply, according to The News.
There were credible reports in 2009 that the ruling PPP politicians, particularly President Zardari and his inner circle, ignored former Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin's key recommendations to address the acute power shortages in the country. Zardari's insistence on pushing rental power projects, rather than fix the huge circular debt problem in the energy sector first, specially frustrated the nation's former finance chief, and he eventually quit last year.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the government's corruption and incompetence in the power sector, not just insufficient installed generating capacity blamed on Musharraf, are at the heart of the deteriorating energy situation in Pakistan.
Nine Independent Power Producers (IPPs), with a combined power generation capacity of 1,800MW, have now notified the government and central power purchasing agency (CPPA) that they are invoking sovereign guarantees for the recovery of their dues amounting to Rs. 31 billion.
The much-heralded reforms of the power sector designed to attract more private investment are stalled, and the current financial mess is scaring away potential investors. With circular debt touching Rs. 250 billion, or nearly 40% of the sector's annual revenue as estimated by ADB, new investors are hesitant to risk their capital. As a result, neither the short-term relief from load shedding nor the long term improvements in the energy sector appear to be on the horizon.
In addition to the long delayed structural reforms in the power sector, there is a total lack of will to tackle the widespread problem of power theft and the mounting unpaid electricity bills which account for as much as 40% of the industry revenue. This deprives the crucial sector of the cash it needs to operate as a sustainable and responsive business capable of satisfying its customers' requirements of reliable electricity service. Rather than deal with these underlying issues, the government is choosing to apply the temporary band-aid of uncertain periodic subsidies and repeated rate hikes.
The recent electricity riots and the approaching elections now appear to be having the effect of adding some sense of urgency at the cabinet level to deal with the long festering crisis. The Cabinet Committee on Restructuring (CCoR) on power sector Thursday approved the creation of a holding company to be led by an independent board of directors to finalize the restructuring of four power generation companies (GENCOs).
This holding company will supervise the management of four GENCOs to be managed in the private sector and would try will make sure of fresh investment in such GENCOs to improve power generation from existing 3,500 megawatts (MW) to 4,800 MW in near future to bridge the demand and supply gap, according to a report in Daily Times.
The paper also reported that the PEPCO (Pakistan Electric Power Co) would be dissolved by October 30, 2011 and replaced by CPPA (Central Power Purchasing Agency) with private management would be its successor. He said that role of the ministries in power sector would be minimized and private sector would have complete administrative and financial authority under the reform process to improve the system.
It's absolutely essential that highly competent and fully empowered leadership be brought in urgently to lead the power industry from the dire straits it's in today. The political leadership in Islamabad must understand the following very clearly: Without first repairing the power sector, there can be no hope of fixing the economy and spur growth before the next elections.
Pakistan's Worsening Power Crisis
Circular Debt and Load Shedding
Musharraf's Economic Legacy
Pakistan's Tops Jobs Growth in South Asia
World Bank Report on Jobs in South Asia
Pakistan's Twin Energy Crises
Pakistan's Worsening Electricity Crisis
Pakistan's Struggling Economy
Lahore School of Economics Paper on Circular Debt