ISLAMABAD - The United States on Wednesday expressed willingness to support the Diamer Bhasha and Dasu projects which are important for Pakistan to overcome the energy shortage in the country.
Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, at a meeting with US delegation comprising Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Robin Raphel, US Ambassador Richard G Olson and energy expert Dr Robert Ichord who called on him, said the government was keen to start work on both Diamer Bhasha and Dassu projects at the same time.
Ambassador Robin Raphel said the United States had agreed in principle that both projects were important for Pakistan and should be supported. Ambassador Richard Olson also added his voice to Ms Raphel and observed that the task had become easier with the conclusion of an IMF programme.
Dr Robert Ichord briefed the meeting about his discussions with the Ministry of Water and Power on various projects and underlined the need to work on the whole energy chain. Dr Ichord suggested that all agencies working in the energy sector should synchronise their efforts which would bring the required synergy to overcome the challenge. He also stressed the need to establish a system where power could be monitored on real time basis so that it could help policy planners, energy managers and regulators.
Mr Ichord also welcomed the agreement signed recently between the US government and a private company in Pakistan for wind power project and said there was a tremendous potential in Pakistan for generation of power by utilising wind and solar potential in the country. He also invited Senator Ishaq Dar to a meeting of the energy working group scheduled to be held in Washington and convened by Ambassador Pascell.
Senator Ishaq Dar, welcoming the US delegation, thanked US for its support in the passage of International Monetary Fund programme. He informed the delegation that the programme which Pakistan had concluded with IMF was unanimously passed by the executive board of the IMF.
Dar said the results of July 2013 were very encouraging as $1.4 billion record remittances were received in the country, revenues in July improved by 25 per cent, there was a current account surplus of 46 million dollars and exports registered an increase of 9 per cent. Senator Ishaq Dar was confident that government was moving in the right direction. He, however, said it was a long journey.
The finance minister said the government inherited a very difficult financial position which could be gauged from the fact that fiscal deficit had reached 8.8 per cent and public debt which was Rs 3 trillion in 1999 had reached Rs 14.5 trillion. This, he said, was unsustainable. He further said that the government was now working on a three-year medium-term framework aimed at reducing public debt by 2 per cent every year, fiscal deficit to 4 per cent by the end of the third year and increasing growth rate to 6 per cent by the end of the next three years.
Dar said one of the serious challenges faced by the economy was the energy sector, and it was estimated that country’s economy was bearing a 2 per cent GDP loss due to power shortage.
Enumerating the steps taken by the PML-N government to overcome the energy challenge, Senator Ishaq Dar said premier Nawaz Sharif came up with an energy policy, cleared circular debt, renewed work on 969MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project and 425/525MW Nandipur Power Project and now planning to construct Diamer Bhasha Dam and Dassu Power Project as part of the government’s long-term plan to overcome energy crisis.
Besides that, the government had launched a huge crackdown on gas and electricity theft in the country, he added.
Dar informed the delegation that as a result of his meeting with his Afghan counterpart who accompanied President Hamid Karzai during his special visit to Pakistan, ECNEC and the Federal Cabinet had given approval to the CASA-1000 project and the Ministry of Water and Power had been authorised to begin negotiations.
Dr Ichord highlighted the need to mobilise investment for exploration of gas resources in Pakistan by encouraging investment in this sector. Pakistan, he said, had tremendous gas resources.
The meeting was attended by several senior officials of the Ministry of Finance and the Economic Affairs Division.