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LAHORE, Aug 4: The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has urged the government to control line losses, electricity theft, inefficiency in recovery of dues and help stop political interference in energy sector that has reduced the country’s economic growth by 3-4 per cent in the last two years.

“The US report about the political interference in the energy sector in Pakistan is an eye-opener for all,” LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said in a statement on Saturday.

He said it was not only the economy that had been facing a meltdown-like situation but the entire country had been in the grip of multiple challenges due to an acute energy shortage.

“There is no second opinion about it that effective governance is critical to economic reforms but if the political interference continues to undermine the decision-making then how one can expect an economic turnaround in coming years?” asked Mr Sheikh.

The LCCI, he said, had been calling on the government since long for the introduction of much needed reforms in the energy sector but unfortunately all its appeals had fallen on deaf ears with the result of huge cut in country’s economic growth.

He said 3-4 per cent cut in economic growth meant fewer job opportunities and little local and foreign investment. “The foreign investors generally take cue from local investors. If local businessmen are putting their stake in new ventures, the foreigners will also follow the suit but unfortunately in Pakistan both local and foreign investments have registered drastic decline.”

The LCCI president said if the government did not implement fundamental reforms in near future, the energy situation could aggravate further creating more serious challenges for the government.

Mr Sheikh also drew the attention of the government towards Rs160 billion line losses and electricity theft, Rs120 billion on account of inefficiency in recovery of bills in the last financial year.

“The system suffered a huge loss of Rs160 billion in the last financial year just on account of electricity pilferage and transmission and distribution losses. The Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) braved an over Rs50 billion hit, which is one-third of total losses. These figures have been worked out as per the claims of the government, which is facing an average of 19.5 per cent line losses,” he said.

Furthermore, in the jurisdiction of Pesco, the electricity theft ratio has been 30 per cent, Hyderabad Electric Supply Company 19 per cent, Sukkur Electric Power Company 25 per cent, Quetta Electric Power Company 22 per cent, whereas in the whole of Punjab electricity theft has been two to three per cent only but the province has been facing maximum power cuts.

“It is unprecedented that over 14 hours load-shedding is being done in the urban areas of the province while about 18 hours power cuts in the rural areas are bound to destroy the provincial economy,” he warned.