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Time to act: Gas allocation

April 22, 2013

CNG STATIONS are back on the policy radar. Following complaints from industry, the government has agreed to review its gas allocations to various sectors of industry, and look once more at the wisdom of resuming supplies for CNG stations. It would be proper for the caretaker government to return to the original gas allocation priority list that carries the approval of the Economic Coordination Committee since that list has the widest possible consensus of stakeholders and industry experts. It makes no sense that gas should be supplied to captive power plants of the textile industry while it is diverted away from the large power plants of the independent power producers and Wapda. It makes equally little sense to pump precious natural gas into highly inefficient automobile engines while our fertiliser plants are gasping for their vital fuel, impacting food prices. The priority list for allocating gas among various stakeholders has been made; it only needs to be implemented.

It’s time the caretaker government lived up to its name. It is understood that its mandate is limited, but there is a reason why it is called a caretaker government: it is supposed to look after things until a new government is sworn in. Given a limited mandate, the petroleum minister has the perfect reason to return to the original allocations agreed upon by the ECC. It might be a tightrope act at times, but he should realise that in an appointed government with a limited mandate, he is free from any political constraint or reciprocal obligation. This freedom should be utilised and the limited mandate exercised to provide gas first and foremost to the power plants that feed the national grid, followed by the fertiliser industry. The textile sector needs to audit the efficiencies of its captive power plants before pressing its demands, and efficiencies in utilisation should become important criteria for deciding allocations. Anything else would be exercising more than a limited mandate, and would justifiably lead to questions.