The World Bank, in its progress report on Pakistan, has said the annual loss to Pakistan resulting from loadshedding is Rs 400 billion a year, which it cannot sustain. This makes the World Bank only the latest of the experts to declare that Pakistan has suffered a material loss because of the energy crisis. The report does not mention it, but those losses also include factories closed and people thrown out of work, as well as export orders lost. The solution proposed by the World Bank report is instructive: hydel projects. Not only would they produce cheaper electricity, but would also avoid the burden of importing oil.

This naturally brings up the recommendation that the World Bank itself made only recently, that Pakistan pursue the Kalabagh Dam project. Foreign experts have recommended its construction before. Only strenuous opposition by elements whose strings are pulled somewhere outside the country, prevented the construction of this highly beneficial project, of which the feasibility has long been ready. While there are other hydel projects going ahead, the Bhasha Dam being one, the Kalabagh Dam project is being criminally neglected. Unlike what Kalabagh Dam opponents say, no hydel project is a substitute of any other; Pakistan needs them all. Because of this, allowing India to steal Pakistan’s water, as it is doing, form its own hydel projects, is doubly criminal, and reflects the government’s wish to act subserviently to the USA, which India is cleverly exploiting to pursue its own goals, which include punishing the temerity it showed by demanding Partition.

Government must stop making anti-dam statements and stop relying on oil-guzzling Rental Power Plants. The World Bank’s projections about Pakistan also depend on how the energy crisis is handled. The report predicts 4.2 percent growth for Pakistan, with the budget deficit estimated to stay at about 5.5 percent of GDP. However, either figure could improve markedly if the loadshedding crisis was solved. An end to loadshedding would mean taxes being paid by both manufacturer and staff. Not only would this mean an increase in revenue, but also thus a reduction in the deficit.

However, once again, while laying so much emphasis on the deficit, the report does not explore the widening of the tax net, by bringing within it those who escape, particularly those drawing agricultural incomes, because of their place. Pakistan should act, because even such a devout defender of the status quo the World Bank cannot escape the inevitable conclusion that even a cursory glance at the Pakistani economy must yield: that the Kalabagh Dam must be built. Pakistan must also make the necessary adjustments in its policy to allow a vigorous defence of its interests against Indian encroachments.