PML-N rejects Imran Khan claims of successes in power sector

Omar Ayub has said that the government will bring circular debt down from Rs450bn to zero by Dec 2020, adding that it was planning to recover Rs300 billion from electricity “defaulters and thieves”. While asking consumers to help identify thieves, the minister said a crackdown on power theft has been launched. He has blamed the PML-N government for giving electricity to loss-making feeders to win elections. Meanwhile, when PM Khan lauded Ayub’s performance on Twitter, PML-N leaders gave strong reaction on the microblogging site.

Omar Ayub

News Desk |

Minister for Power Division Omar Ayub Khan said on Friday the government will bring the circular debt down from Rs450 billion at present to zero by December 2020.

While reiterating government’s commitment to bring reforms in the power sector and setting the deadline, the minister said that power companies had been able to recover Rs81 billion from private defaulters over the past eight months of the current fiscal year.

In addition, Ayub said, the authorities concerned have registered 30,000 FIRs for power theft and already made 4,000 arrests. Revealing government plans during a press conference in the capital on Friday, he said that “stern departmental action” was being taken against officials of power companies for colluding on power losses.

The comparison is being made because in March this year, Ayub said that the circular debt would be brought down to Rs225 billion from Rs603 billion by December 31, 2019.

Among other targets, the minister said that the government was planning to recover Rs300 billion from electricity “defaulters and thieves”. He said that an additional subsidy of Rs50 billion would be provided to exempt consumers using up to 300 units per month from the tariff increase as required under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program. “We will set aside Rs230bn subsidy in the upcoming budget to sec­ure these consumers having 300 units or less per month consumption,” he said.

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To make the power companies more efficient and improve their service, Ayub said the government was also working to divide four of the larger power distribution companies – Each of the Peshawar, Quetta, Multan and Lahore distribution companies – into eight to improve their functioning and efficiency.

PM lauds Ayub on Twitter

Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated Ayub and his team for “Rs 81 billion increase in the collection in 8 months”, adding “Rs 58 billion [was generated] from theft control.”

In addition, PM Khan while citing his campaign slogan of “Naya Pakistan” said that 80 percent of Pakistan was free from load-shedding and there was “Zero load shedding at sehr and iftar” during the holy month of Ramzan.

The premier said that the circular debt flow had already been reduced from Rs38 billion a month to Rs26 billion and was expected to come down to “zero by next December”. He expected “another Rs 120 bn to be recovered next year”.

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Shehbaz, Maryam react to PM’s tweet

Meanwhile, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif strongly reacted to PM Khan’s claims. “No matter how deceptive the swing & how cunning the skipper, the facts cannot be twisted,” he said.

PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz also responded strongly to Khan’s Twitter posts, terming him “incompetent” and using the hashtag “#CosmicShamelessness”. She said Khan claiming former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s work and success as his own.

Ayub blames PML-N, calls for ‘Jihad against power theft’, offers jobs

While blaming the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government for giving electricity to loss-making feeders to win elections, Ayub claimed that PML-N left behind Rs650 billion circular debt, including Rs450bn built during the last year of the PML-N government.

Minister for Power Division Omar Ayub Khan said on Friday the government will bring the circular debt down from Rs450 billion at present to zero by December 2020.

At present, he said, fresh accumulation of circular debt was Rs38bn per month, adding that it would be reduced to Rs26bn by June and Rs8bn by June 2020 to completely wipe out the problem.

“We have set the target to collect Rs100bn from defaulters and Rs200bn from those involved in power theft by June next year,” Dawn quoted him as saying, adding that the power system losses had also been curtailed by 1.8 percent since September 2018.

Interestingly, Ayub appealed the masses to join hands in what he called a “Jihad against power theft” by identifying thieves. Referring to the crackdown on the mafia involved in power theft, he said, roughly 950 to 1,000 appointments would be made on merit in power distribution companies as they had a shortage of staff for patrolling.

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Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s unmet deadlines

During the Pakistan Peoples Party tenure, the then minister of power and water Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had become notorious for giving unmet deadlines to end load-shedding several times. He later became the prime minister of Pakistan but by then refrained himself from giving any deadlines.

The comparison is being made because in March this year, Ayub said that the circular debt would be brought down to Rs225 billion from Rs603 billion by December 31, 2019. He had said similar things – circular debt escalated to Rs450 in just one year, the previous government did not give attention to power sector recovery besides continuous power supply to high losses feeders and power distribution companies would further be bifurcated etc. – while talking to journalists.

Though the incumbent power minister has set deadline, only time will tell if he can meet the same or be criticized for setting unrealistic targets just like the predecessors.

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