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EditorialA winter season amid gas shortfall

A winter season amid gas shortfall

As the winter months arrive, the country is hit with a gas shortage. The economic managers foresee the situation and place orders for the liquified natural gas (LNGs) months in advance by floating tenders to get relatively cheaper prices. The stock is then stored to provide for the country, especially in areas severely hit by harsh winter weathers. But not this year – or rather since the ruling PTI came into power. It is the third year in a row since the government has failed to procure LNG cargos in a timely manner.

However, the gas shortage being witnessed this year is unprecedented with even alternatives being out of reach for the layman; courtesy the rising inflation in the country. The price of wood in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have skyrocketed to Rs1,400 per kgs, while the coal is being sold at Rs160 per kg. The cost of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders is also ranging between Rs900 to Rs3,000 in urban centres, such as, Karachi. And if you are ‘lucky’ to live in an area that hasn’t been hit by the shortfall than your gas bill makes up for it. The average citizen has been struck hard by the economic crises prevalent in the country. If Prime Minister Imran Khan had hoped that people shift to electric stoves and heaters, as he had stated in a ceremony last year, perhaps he must be sent household electricity bills that reflect an increase in tariffs almost every other month.

But what can be done? The fact remains that Pakistan has been facing gas shortages during winters over the past decade. Instead of introducing structural reforms, the incumbent government chose to ration the fuel. For instance, supply to compressed natural gas (CNG) stations have been suspended till mid-February in some provinces, while residential consumers in others have been promised uninterrupted supply three times a day for cooking. Though many complain of ‘low gas pressure’ even during those times. But what the country needs are structural reforms. Ramping up imports of LNGs and building more terminal to store them are short-term goals. In the long-run, boosting domestic supply and investing on exploration of new local discoveries should be achieved. If the government of the day doesn’t actively work towards spending on this sector, gas in Pakistan would soon become a luxury only a few could afford.

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