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Govt needs to heed lawmakers’ concern over power outages

THE Awami League-led government’s claim of substantial improvement in electricity supply scenario came in for another round of beating on Thursday, with lawmakers from the alliance that it heads leading the charge. According to a report published in New Age on Friday, the criticism of the government for its failure to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply — at a pre-budget discussion at the finance ministry chaired by the finance minister — that journalists were asked to leave the ministry’s conference room where the event took place and wait outside for a briefing later. Here, it is pertinent to recall that, a few months ago, journalists were also asked to leave by the shipping minister, midway through a meeting on road safety at the communications ministry. The reason was different then; the shipping minister was peeved at the media for reports on his call for issuance of driving licence without exams. On Thursday, the reason seemed to be more about keeping the discord and displeasure within the ruling alliance about the abysmal electricity supply from public domain.
According to the New Age report, the chairmen of the parliamentary standing committees on power and telecommunications were especially harsh in their criticism and warned the government of serious repercussion in the next general elections if it fails to bring power outages down to a tolerable level. They pointed out that even people in urban areas, who are better placed in terms of power supply than people in rural areas, were at the end of their tethers in the face of frequent and prolonged power outages, all the more so because the power tariff has been raised several times in recent months.
It perhaps need not overemphasised that the government has simply made a complete mess in the power sector through a string of poor policy decisions. Its reliance on quick rental plants in the private sector, and concomitant neglect of the regular plants in the public sector, to augment power generation has so far had disastrous impact on not only the energy sector but also the economy. The exorbitant price of power purchased from these fuel-run rental plants has increased the government’s expenditure on both subsidy and fuel import. The resultant heavy borrowing from the banking system has caused severe liquidity crisis while the skyrocketing import bill has pushed the foreign exchange reserve down to a critical level.
The government needs to realise that even its political allies no longer buy its tall claims of success in the power sector. Hence, instead of reeling out more rhetoric, it needs to take effective actions to improve the power supply situation and give the people some respite.

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