KARACHI: The government’s claim of record improvement in power generation and zero load-shedding in industrial sectors got a reality check on Saturday as data showed import bill of power generating machines went through the roof in April.
Anticipating further load-shedding in the coming months, traders and industrialists imported generators worth $162 million in April 2015 alone, a sharp rise compared to $86m in March 2015 and $77.7m in April 2014.
According to the data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), generator imports stood at $1.1 billion during the first 10 months (July-April) of this fiscal year, up by 26 per cent compared to $873m a year ago. The figure was $1.07bn in 2013-14 and $958.6m in 2012-13.
The government claimed a day back through print media ad campaign that there was zero load-shedding in industries for four months (November, December 2014 and February, March 2015), followed by 18-hour daily power supply from April to May 25, and then zero load-shedding again from May 25 onwards.
When the government came to power in 2013, there was 12 hours’ load-shedding, which reduced to zero from November 2014 to March 2015, then rose again to six hours from April to May 25, and then again zero from May 25 onwards, the advertisement further stated.
Industrialists are not clear whether the government’s rosy picture applies only to Punjab or covers entire industrial units of the country.
“Industries continue to import generators. The export-oriented ones, in particular, have two to three standby generators to meet their shipment deadlines,” said Mohammad Jawed Bilwani, chairman of Site Association of Industry (SAI).
Dismissing the government’s claim of zero load-shedding, he said power outages are a routine now in the shape of maintenance, faults and feeder trips. Voltage fluctuation is also normal. Moreover, load-shedding in many industrial units is also done in case they are located near a residential area, he said.
“Had there been enough power supply to the industries, the generator imports would have slowed down sharply,” he said.
Mr Bilwani said many industrial units have set up power houses in their respective units besides creating extra job to look after the standby generators. “I think 70-80pc industries have power generators.”
North Karachi Association of Trade and Industry’s (NKATI) Chairman A. Rasheed Fodderwala also agreed that load-shedding is being carried out in the name of maintenance, feeder trips and faults. Industries remain without power for four to six hours, he said.
He believed industrialists continue purchasing generators due to uncertain power situation. Out of 2,000 units in the area, around 60-70pc units have power generators. Imports of generators are going up despite the fact that no new industries are coming up in the area, he said.
Pakistan Machinery Merchants Group (PMMG) President Khurram Saigol said imports of industrial generators have been on the rise while residential power machines have fallen.
He said used generators are also arriving, while small generators for residential use are finding way through illegal channels.
Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2015