On Saturday, the State Bank of Pakistan [SBP] released its quarterly report, in which it announced that the country’s economy “will expand by less than 6 percent for the first time in five years amid double-digit inflation and ballooning budget and trade deficits.” As a result of both international and homegrown factors, the Bank noted the Pakistani economy was showing “increasing signs of stress,” reported the Associated Press. According to the news agency, the report added, “A disappointing wheat harvest will likely hold back the key agriculture sector, while chronic energy shortages – both households and businesses face regular power cuts – have hampered industries including steel and textiles.”
Pakistani media outlets also reported on the findings this weekend. The News quoted the SBP report as saying, “There is a need to take necessary administrative measures to protect low-income households by providing targeted subsidy to them through ration cards, utility stores or through students of public schools.” Dawn newspaper framed the findings in light of the ramifications for the two-month old government, noting the quarterly report “highlighted the depressing features of a challenging economic environment that would put the collective wisdom” of the new coalition to test.
In order to address one of these challenges, the Pakistani government announced that it will be putting its clocks an hour forward on Sunday to conserve energy. Shops have also been ordered to close by 9 pm, earlier than the usual 11 pm closing time, effective June 1. The clock change will put the country six hours ahead of the GMT. Reuters cited Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez, who said the government planned “to overcome power shortages within a year by generating an extra 6,000 MW.” The news agency assessed:
Pakistan’s installed capacity is about 19,845 MW, of which about one-third is produced by hydro-electric plants. Much of the rest is generated by thermal stations, fuelled primarily by gas and oil. But no new capacity has been installed for the past decade despite strong growth and rising demand for power. Power cuts are likely to worsen over the next few months as the weather heats up and air conditioners are switched on full blast.
So will this new power-saving policy work? While only time will tell, this is not the first time the government has attempted this time shift. Although Pakistan tried moving to daylight savings time in 2002, the policy was abandoned because many people, particularly in rural areas, ignored the switch. According to Reuters, “Some people doubted the time change would work this time.” The news agency quoted Adnan Hadi, a television producer from Multan, [where the recent power riots took place, see previous post], who said, “It’s bound to fail. Half the people aren’t aware of it and the other half don’t care.” Moreover, given the worsening economy, it seems almost counterintuitive that shop owners are being made to close their businesses two hours early. Although the policy’s aim is to conserve power, closing early could have an impact on these shops’ sales and overall business. [Image from AFP]