PM Shehbaz Sharif addresses the conference on Tuesday.—PPI
PM Shehbaz Sharif addresses the conference on Tuesday.—PPI

• Shehbaz says conversion a first step towards generating 10,000MW of solar power
• Blames PTI govt for creating bureaucratic inertia ‘through NAB witch-hunt’

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday vowed to convert all government buildings in the country to solar power, starting from those belonging to federal government entities by April to save 300 to 500 megawatts per month and slash the import bill hovering around $27 billion a year.

Speaking at a solarisation conference in Islamabad, the premier also blamed all previous governments in the last 30 years — that include at least two terms of his brother and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif — for “unbridled circular debts” in the power sector that have escalated to Rs2.5 trillion.

He said that in view of the prevailing economic crisis in the country, the time had come to make long overdue reforms, for which he said bureaucrats had to rejuvenate themselves to serve the nation and clear official files without any fear of NAB.

“Due to lack of responsibility and reforms, the circular debt in the power sector has become a monster and all previous governments of the last 30 years are responsible for it,” the prime minister told the participants. “The circular debt has become four times bigger than our development funds of Rs700 billion.”

The prime minister said that under the energy-saving plan, all the federal government ministries, departments, authorities and their offshoots in the provinces would immediately shift to solar energy in the next four months.

He said it would be a model for provincial governments as the federal government would not make additional expenditures over the solarisation process.

He said the entire process would be conducted through a transparent bidding via a third party. He urged chief ministers to emulate the centre’s pattern and introduce solar systems in their provinces and assured the federal government’s complete assistance in this regard.

The prime minister said that the process for generating 10,000MW solar power in the country had already started and such a conversion by the federal government buildings would be the first phase.

Criticising PTI Chairman Imran Khan for keeping bureaucracy under “threat” through what he called a “NAB-Niazi (Imran Khan) nexus”, the premier said government officers had faced undue NAB action and humiliation for committing corruption that the anti-graft watchdog “could not prove”.

He said NAB had made a “baseless case” against 56 companies he formed in Punjab for development projects but failed to prove corruption even after a lapse of five years.

he agreed that the nation was suffering from unprecedented inflation and admiring citizens for bearing the hard times, but added the government had no other option but to go to the IMF.

“The PTI government had backed out of the IMF programme and brought the country to the verge of economic destruction and that is why the IMF does not trust us,” he said.

The prime minister said that during the Covid pandemic, gas prices crashed to a record low of $2 per unit, but the then government “committed criminal negligence” by not securing its import and due to which the whole nation was suffering now.

He said that during former PM Nawaz Sharif’s last tenure, a 15-year agreement for buying LNG at 13.2 per cent of Brent crude oil was reached with Qatar, but unfortunately, it was politicised by the subsequent government.

Currently due to the global situation, gas was not available while the fuel was being sold at an exorbitant price in the global market, he said, adding that they would have to convert to solar and renewable energy with lightning speed.

The PM said that during the previous PML-N government, efforts were made to generate cheap hydroelectricity, and land worth Rs100 billion was acquired to build the Bhasha dam, but those were long-term measures to generate affordable power in the country. He said that under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, power projects were completed by the PML-N government in 2015 to overcome crippling power outages.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2022

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