Govt devises plan to conserve energy, cut import bill
• Proposal to be presented in cabinet meeting for approval in consultation with provinces
• Marriyum’s statement suggests only $1.2bn could be saved in imports
• Says Imran must answer for ‘corruption, theft’
ISLAMABAD: The government has devised a national contingency energy-saving plan to stabilise the economy, conserve energy and cut the import bill because an “extraordinary situation” required “extraordinary measures”, the information minister said on Thursday.
The plan, prepared by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, was approved in a high-level meeting presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb tweeted that the plan would be presented in the next cabinet meeting for final approval and all the chief ministers would also be invited so that it could be implemented in collaboration with the provinces.
Under the plan, a crackdown on electricity theft would be launched and many private and government buildings would be converted to solar energy.
She said the main purpose of the emergency energy saving plan was to reduce the pressure on citizens and the economy as the price of fuel, including oil, continued to rise in the global market.
“Extraordinary measures are required to deal with the extraordinary situation so that the contingency plan would significantly reduce the import bill,” she added.
The meeting was apprised that as a result of the energy-saving plan, billions of dollars could be saved annually that would help stabilise the economy.
Ms Aurangzeb said extraordinary measures were necessary to deal with the extraordinary situation in which every Pakistani would have to play his part.
The minister quoted Prime Minister Sharif as saying: “Saving energy is imperative for Pakistan’s survival.”
She later said in a Twitter post that “Pakistan’s import bill is $29 billion annually. This amount in rupees is more than 6 kharab rupees. As a result of the energy saving plan, annual savings of billions of dollars have been estimated, which is more than 262bn in Pakistani rupees”.
However, her tweet was riddled with errors as $29bn equals Rs60 kharab (or Rs6 trillion) and the country’s import bill crossed $80bn in the previous fiscal year. Besides, savings of Rs262bn would result in reducing the bill by a mere $1.2bn.
Perhaps this is what prompted a Twitter user to tell Ms Aurangzeb: “We also want to live in a Pakistan where the import bill is $29bn.”
Later, Ms Aurangzeb said PTI Chairman Imran Khan, who had held others accountable for four years, should also face accountability for deeds during his own four years rule from 2018 to 2022.
She said the alleged misuse of Toshakhana gifts by Mr Khan was an “open-and-shut case”.
“It is not only a case of watches and gifts worth billions of rupees but of non-declaration of assets in his returns,” she said.
She said the masses had stopped listening to Mr Khan’s “false narrative” of accusing political opponents of corruption.
She also lashed out at the Punjab government, saying the provincial administration had turned educational institutions into political arenas.
The minister said she was glad to see that “youth are moving away from the politics of division and corruption of Imran Khan”, as they had realised that the country was economically far better before Mr Khan came to power.
The youth also knew that the country was facing an economic crisis due to Mr Khan’s “inefficiency and incompetence”, she said, adding: “Now Imran Khan has to answer for his corruption and theft.”
Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2022