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The Express Tribune Editorial 19 December 2019

Gas dearer and scarcer

 

Come winter and we start experiencing gas rationing. This situation has been persisting for the past five to six years, and yet there is no remedy in sight. Like most things, this issue too seems to be handled with short-cut measures. When temperature drops in colder regions of the country, gas to these parts are diverted from areas where people can do without gas heaters. The repetition of the same story year after year points to bad governance, lack of planning and incompetence. Now a hefty 214 per cent hike in gas prices has been proposed by Ogra in the midst of increasing gas outages in the country.
Until two years ago, people were informed in advance about the number of days in a week when gas would not be available, especially for public transport. This year, there is a complete blackout about the duration of gas outages. No one knows when CNG pumps will announce a gas shutdown, or about the duration of the shutdown. People do not know for how long in this season gas rationing will be in place. People are completely in the dark about the gas supply situation.
Last Saturday, commuters were caught unawares when they came out of their homes to travel to their workplaces finding very few public transport vehicles on the road. Gradually, they came to know that CNG pumps were closed. After one day’s respite on Monday, on Tuesday at midday again gas closure was abruptly announced. Harried commuters, including women and children, were left high and dry. Taking advantage of their helplessness transporters charged exorbitant fares. On display was another tragic flaw in our national life: lack of the rule of law. Gas rationing has been continuing on Wednesday with nothing known about the outage schedule. It was later revealed that Tuesday’s closure was necessecitated by outages at Roti tandoors.
The persisting gas shortage shows lack of planning on the part of the authorities. The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. Adhoc measures won’t do.

 
 

Gas dearer and scarcer

 

Come winter and we start experiencing gas rationing. This situation has been persisting for the past five to six years, and yet there is no remedy in sight. Like most things, this issue too seems to be handled with short-cut measures. When temperature drops in colder regions of the country, gas to these parts are diverted from areas where people can do without gas heaters. The repetition of the same story year after year points to bad governance, lack of planning and incompetence. Now a hefty 214 per cent hike in gas prices has been proposed by Ogra in the midst of increasing gas outages in the country.
Until two years ago, people were informed in advance about the number of days in a week when gas would not be available, especially for public transport. This year, there is a complete blackout about the duration of gas outages. No one knows when CNG pumps will announce a gas shutdown, or about the duration of the shutdown. People do not know for how long in this season gas rationing will be in place. People are completely in the dark about the gas supply situation.
Last Saturday, commuters were caught unawares when they came out of their homes to travel to their workplaces finding very few public transport vehicles on the road. Gradually, they came to know that CNG pumps were closed. After one day’s respite on Monday, on Tuesday at midday again gas closure was abruptly announced. Harried commuters, including women and children, were left high and dry. Taking advantage of their helplessness transporters charged exorbitant fares. On display was another tragic flaw in our national life: lack of the rule of law. Gas rationing has been continuing on Wednesday with nothing known about the outage schedule. It was later revealed that Tuesday’s closure was necessecitated by outages at Roti tandoors.
The persisting gas shortage shows lack of planning on the part of the authorities. The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. Adhoc measures won’t do

 
 

Exports: falling market share

 

A new Asian Development Bank study bluntly notes the need for major structural reforms in Pakistan to increase exports and attain a sustainable economic growth rate of over 3.8%. While the untrained eye may assume that increasing exports is simply a matter of raising production of existing export items, the unfortunate reality is that it will require significant policy changes to diversify exports. The first steps towards economic and export diversification could be to identify what is causing ‘lost export value’ in specific industries, and explore how to enter untapped export markets and categories on the cheap. Once identified, this could be relatively easy, as selling finished goods instead of raw materials and other forms of value addition could significantly raise exports. Significant reforms are also needed in the textile and garment industries, which remain the country’s most significant export categories despite continually becoming less competitive internationally.
Capacity expansion for the industry and oversight agencies, improved standards, and increased trade finance are among the top suggestions. But all this requires policy redesigns and efficient coordination and implementation. But changes are needed. The government has introduced some reforms, but questions remain over whether or not they will be enough to stay Pakistan’s declining global market share of exports. Keep in mind that the country’s exports have fallen almost 20% since 2014. And it’s not just about exports. Pakistan needs breathing space if it is to grow, and the massive trade deficit is not going to allow that. Something needs to be done about imports as well, and a good starting point would be to review the massive subsidies given to power producers which use imported oil and gas. Fossil fuels remain Pakistan’s most significant import, and we cannot keep hoping for a miraculous local well to pop up and make us independent of this drain. We need to invest more in renewables and encourage those already investing.
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