ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet meeting has in-principle given approval to extend the project of installation of advanced meters from the federal capital to other parts of the country, besides installation of advanced meters on transformers to reduce line losses in the power sector.

The meeting of the federal cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday also approved the recommendation of the Power Division for measures to promote the use of low-cost solar energy as an alternative to expensive imported fuel across the country.

These measures include running existing power plants with solar energy during daytime instead of using expensive imported fuel, allowing local private investors to install small-scale solar power plants on 11KV feeders in rural areas and providing solar power to government buildings.

While describing the average of seven percent line losses as unsatisfactory, the prime minister directed for a comprehensive plan to reduce them to bring them down to the rate of line losses prevailing at the international level and to make recommendations for reform measures in the electricity distribution companies.

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A committee was established under the chairmanship of Defence Minister Khawaja Asif in this regard.

Federal Minister for Commerce and Production Syed Naveed Qamar, Minister for Electricity Engineer Khuram Dastgir Khan, Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Shazia Marri, Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik, Minister for Science and Technology Agha Hasan Baloch, Minister for Housing Maulana Abdul Wasi are members of this committee.

Adviser to the Prime Minister, Engr Amir Muqam and Secretary Power will be included in it.

The committee will formulate a comprehensive action plan after consultation within two weeks and submit it to the cabinet.

The meeting was briefed by the Power Division with statistics about power theft, line losses, outages and the strategy of the Power Division to reduce the line losses, as well as, bills, and ensuring swift recoveries by electricity distribution companies (DISCOs). The cabinet meeting was also briefed about the most loss-making feeders, the obstacles to recovery from them, along with the methods and suggestions for solving these problems.

The premier directed the Power Division to submit a comprehensive report to the next meeting of the federal cabinet about important vacancies in the DISCOs and stressed to make the recruitment process transparent and in line with international best practices.

The premier also directed that in order to improve the performance of electricity distribution companies a list of corrupt officers should be compiled in these companies and at the same time officers with good reputation should be appointed to important positions so that the performance of these companies can be improved, losses are reduced and better services can be provided to the public. He directed that such officers should be rewarded for their good performance.

The federal cabinet on the recommendation of the Cabinet Division approved the decisions taken by the ECC of the Cabinet of 17 October 2022: (i) approval of technical supplementary grant of Rs17 billion for the Sustainable Development Goals Achievement Program for the financial year 2022-23; (ii) keeping in view the destruction of ready crops on millions of acres due to the recent devastating floods and in view of the possible shortage of local seeds, the federal cabinet decided to work with the provinces to ensure the supply of seeds to the farmers for the upcoming wheat crop. For this, the provinces and the federal government will ensure the provision of funds with a contribution of 50 percent. In this regard, the ECC approved a supplementary grant of Rs3.2 billion to NDMA for procurement of wheat seed and distribution to districts identified by the provinces, which was approved by the Cabinet.

Prime Minister Shehbaz informed the cabinet about the details of his visit to Kazakhstan and briefed them about his participation in international conferences in September and October, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the United Nations General Assembly and recently the CICA summit. He said that detailed meetings were held with the heads of states of Central Asian states.

The premier further told the meeting that after discussing agricultural commodities, gas, rail, road, infrastructure and connectivity and energy corridors in these meetings, it was decided that Pakistan will soon hold a summit meeting of Central Asian states in Islamabad, in which Central Asian states will be connected from Gwadar and Karachi ports. Principle decisions will be taken regarding establishing rail, road and energy corridors, the meeting was told. Moreover, in the light of the recommendations of the committees established by the prime minister, a comprehensive plan of action for these links will also be presented.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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