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September 23, 2016

Geometry of small steps


September 23, 2016

It is an essential step in the process of ‘nation building’ that governments empower the masses in terms of economic, financial, political and social reference. For this, public policymaking, founded on building infrastructures to create an environment of equal opportunity for all, is used as an indispensable tool.

The step taken by the present government – investing in the energy sector – is a way forward to finding an appropriate energy mix which is not only cost effective but also fit enough to meet the short and long-term energy needs of the country. One of the major outcomes of the economic policies entailing investment in energy sector is reduction in poverty and unemployment, both in rural and urban areas, observed in the medium and long terms.

Economic structure and the size of population determine the energy requirement of any country. Rapid population growth, higher energy production intensity and demand and supply mismanagement have created an energy crisis in most of the South Asian countries. The biggest crisis faced by Pakistan is power shortage. This has, undoubtedly, adversely affected the production systems as well as the quality of life of its populace.

According to a rough estimate, in Pakistan the output losses vary between 30 percent and 60 percent, which not only have a negative effect on the production system but also disturb the demand and supply cycle interrupting the cash flows of the energy sector of the country. The study of energy sources along with the trends in energy use in Pakistan infer that a possible solution to tackle the energy crisis requires addressing the problems at the demand and supply ends.

The focus of the initiatives taken on the demand side should include strategies to improve energy efficiency and energy conservation. Considering the energy-environment linkage, supply too needs to be increased. In this regard, it is welcome news that nine power projects are to be added to the national grid. These projects will render an addition of more than a 1000 MWs to the existing power supply system.

Energy shortfall is a stumbling block in the way to economic growth and development of the country. Investment in the energy sector by the present leadership is very timely since the situation demands that urgent measures be taken to increase supply and to manage demand to fill in the gap. The need of the hour is that efforts to encourage energy conservation also be introduced; these can play an imperative role in reducing the demand and supply gap.

Investment in the development of the energy sector will result in short and long-term economic objectives. A probe into the trade pattern of the country divulges that Pakistan is one of the least traded countries on a per capita basis in South Asia. So even a minute increase in trade can bring about much larger growth and employment implications.

The present pattern of Pakistan’s population reveals that more than 45 percent of the country’s population consists of youth aged between 16 and 35 years. Advantages like cheap labour, entrepreneurship development, low-cost public support programmes, long-term skill development measures etc can be obtained if the potential of the large young population is appropriately harnessed. The focus of the economic goals for respective governments should be on human development hallmarked by infrastructure building.

It is the vision of the political leadership which is pivotal in designing the contours of public policy. The best any political leadership can give to its nation can possibly be infrastructure-building because they ensure existence of a milieu replete with the right kind of opportunities for individuals to strive for excellence and personal growth.

The news about the nine power projects is very heartening as it indicates that now the energy production portfolio of the country is switching from being focused on power production using costly fuel to renewable sources of energy production which has been relatively an underdeveloped area. Previously, most of the renewable energy in Pakistan was coming from hydro electricity.

Considering the future energy requirements of the country, it is high time the government focused on the issue of expanding energy resources by increasing its supply. Two programmes have been prepared and are ready to be executed for this purpose.

The increased power generation would contribute towards economic growth by enhancing employment opportunities through increased industrial activity. It would further help initiate a trade-conducive environment which could result in augmenting the confidence of foreign investors.

The writer is the assistant director of the cyber wing at the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad.

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