WEBDESK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s direction to all relevant energy-related ministries and divisions to observe all legal formalities in preparatory works and agreements while ensuring transparency in all aspects of the projects is welcomed.
All relevant related ministries and divisions need to be identified and encroachments on decision-making in the energy sector need to be openly acknowledged, blame attributed where it is due and appropriate mitigating measures put in place to forestall future flawed interventions in the sector.
This is clearly a reference to the Nandipur power project; however, unfortunately, there appear to be no lessons learned from that project and instead there is reportedly an ongoing blame game between senior members of the PML-N – within the party cadres if not openly on the media.
One would hope that lessons learned include the overwhelming relevance of getting several expert/technical opinions before the launch of any power project as haste may not necessarily lead to enhancing energy supply quickly. And, also that there is a need to have a central command through the establishment of an energy ministry as committed in the PML-N manifesto but not yet delivered.
Legal formalities in turn must include adherence to the public procurement rules. The government has been at pains to inform critics of projects where PPRA rules were bypassed that there is a dearth of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into the country.
It is well known that FDI has been declining for the past two years and that the Chinese government alone has shown an interest in investing up to 46 billion dollars in Pakistan and the Chinese insist on certain guarantees that were accepted by the Sharif administration as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor can be a game-changer for this country.
There will be few who will disagree with this; however, the same does not apply to the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) imports from Qatar.
The complete lack of transparency in negotiations over the price of LNG imports from Qatar is difficult to comprehend leave alone support. The Federal Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s claim that such negotiations are always undertaken in secrecy and once the two parties sign on the dotted line he would make the deal public has legitimately generated a lot of confusion and concern.
Confusion as to why a commercial deal is being negotiated under such secrecy and concern as the public would be presented with a fait accompli as the terms of the contract would be revealed after no changes can legally be made till the expiry of the duration of the contract – a duration expected to be for the long-term.
What is further spreading the perception that there is a lack of transparency in the LNG import deal was the acknowledgement by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, that a Master Sales Purchase Agreement has been signed; if the MSPA has been signed then why doesn’t the Ministry make that public?
The minister has also repeatedly tried to dismiss concerns over the non-transparency of the negotiations as a campaign by vested interests and on occasion have referred to unsubstantiated accusations that he is being threatened by then referring thereby to oil companies. These threats need to be substantiated by the relevant ministry.
What is disturbing, however, is that the Managing Director of SNGPL finally resigned after he was fired and obtained a stay order from the Lahore High Court. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi claimed on television that Arif Hameed, who was reappointed by PML-N in 2014 for two years, was initially fired because he had failed to meet his performance targets namely to provide gas to a certain number – a commodity with a rising shortfall in the country.
If this was a legitimate case for dismissal then surely one must be allowed to apply the same logic on the minister and several of his cabinet colleagues.
The Prime Minister has previously warned his cabinet colleagues that he would take away their portfolios until and unless they meet their performance targets. It is unfortunate that obvious cases of failure to meet these targets are ignored simply by the relevant minister giving a power-point presentation claiming successes that are limited to paper.
It is time that the Prime Minister makes good on his threats and not dither for family or loyalty reasons.