IF Mr Rehman Malik has a magic wand that he can wave to do away with our power-sector problems, why on earth did he not tell us sooner? We are very encouraged by the offer he made in a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy held on Friday that he can “sort out” the DISCOs and bring their recoveries to “100 per cent”. And while he’s at it, could he also ensure that the power sector does not resort to any form of ghost billing in the process? And that disputed billing becomes a thing of the past? We would also like to ask him whether his magic wand works for the circular debt that has been dogging our economy for so long and for which we appear to have no solution.
Watching this government deal with the power crisis now inspires jokes of the ‘how many ministers does it take to install a light bulb’ variety. In the same cabinet committee meeting, we are told Mr Qamar Zaman Kaira growled at the senior management of the DISCOs and the finance minister formed two more ‘subcommittees’. The newly inducted minister for water and power, Mr Ahmed Mukhtar, could apparently only listen. If growling at the management is what it takes, one wonders why the government is so helpless before the power bureaucracy that it cannot see through a simple reform to empower the independent boards placed atop the DISCOs. If reform consisted of forming subcommittees, we would have solved this mess much earlier. The answer to our energy woes lies only in the slow and incremental road of power-sector reform. Unfortunately, from what we have witnessed so far, that is a road the government has clearly no wherewithal for. Instead, we’re left with these cabinet jamborees and clownish proposals.