One needs to comprehend the rationale behind the ongoing gas crisis across the country. The recent shortfall during the chilly weather left millions of users bewildered since tall claims have been made from time to time vis-à-vis discovery, prudent management and import of LNG to tackle the long-standing issue of the energy in the country. It is eventually the industry, which is at the loser’s end. Various reasons have been given regarding the shortfall of gas, however, one of the most frequent reasons is the theft of gas, which does not seems to be restrained any way, perhaps at the behest of some unknown creatures.
A million rather a billion dollar question is who should be given the priority for the availability of gas: domestic users, zero-rated export industry, the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) sector, manufacturing industry, power generation sector, fertilizer sector etc. One needs to fathom that priority is given by the relevant authorities, however, the issues remain outstanding as usual. The sufferers experience frequent electricity breakdowns as well as acute gas load-shedding resulting in poor performance at almost all levels resulting in deceleration in the exports of the country. And the ramification of this is the weak rudderless economy.
As regards decline in exports, there have been calls by the export-oriented manufacturing sector regarding non-availability of gas. It was suggested that gas supply may be suspended to the CNG sector for a couple of months to salvage exports sector. Prior to the Federal Budget for the current fiscal, the government abolished sales tax zero-rating regime for textile, leather, carpets, sports goods and surgical goods imposing 17% sales tax on items covered under SRO 1125(I)/2011. This jolted the export-oriented sectors since the amount to be collected was in the vicinity of Rs90 billion. Besides, the concerns of non-availability of gas. The textile sector’s export share is around US $13 billion. The more the availability of the gas, the more the production leading to more exports. The dwindling exports could render hundreds of thousands of people jobless at the cost of dismal economic outlook.
Simultaneously, the closure of CNG station has multiple losses right from the investors to the end-users such as the masses who already have barely enough to keep body and soul together.
Economy of Pakistan is not robust enough to bear the burgeoning import of costly oil to the detriment of middle and lower middle strata of the society. Millions of vehicles in Pakistan are running on CNG fuel for over a decade by virtue of economic reason. Though the difference between the cost of CNG and petrol which once was over 50% has narrowed to hardly 20%, the masses still find it a viable fuel vis-à-vis petrol. Closure of CNG stations is viewed as an unbearable burden by the motorists. Moreover, environmental issues could compel the authorities if not today then of course tomorrow onwards to resort to the environmentally friendly fuel for the betterment of the entire globe. This dilemma is to be sorted out sooner rather than later.
During November, December and January this time, the domestic consumers experienced low gas pressure or no gas at all along with the chilly weather adding to their woes. The already oppressed middle and lower strata of the society were in anguish in the wake of burgeoning inflation and extra cost of purchasing LPG for domestic use. There is also massive use of compressors by domestic consumers in areas experiencing extremely low gas pressure. This is an illegal act which the authorities must take seriously to save others from the disadvantage. The total shortfall of gas surged to 600 million metric cubic feet a day (MMCFD) compelling the distribution organizations to curtail the supply to sectors other than domestic consumers. It is called double whammy.
The demand for gas is rising fast in the wake of economic reasons, to be precise. Moreover, the changing weather pattern is compelling millions to opt for the viable solution to keep oneself warm during the prolonged spell of chilly weather. The recent news that the State-run Oil & Gas Development Company Ltd (OGDCL) has started drilling of first shale gas well in Hyderabad brings some relief to the end-users since this might decelerate the ever-increasing fuel cost. There is no denying that around 40% of Pakistan’s energy needs are being met by natural gas which caters to the domestic consumers, transport sector, power sector, fertilizer production, industry etc. This gives prominence to the natural gas and its all-time availability with convenience.