Economist terms energy sector ‘black hole’


ISLAMABAD: Dr Hafeez Pasha, former finance minister, Wednesday, while identifying key areas which undermine human security in Pakistan has said that the black hole in Pakistan’s economy is the energy sector, due to unbelievable levels of line losses and rising energy prices.

He said this while speaking at the launch of his report titled, “Human Security in Pakistan” on the second day of the 26th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Dr Pasha said that security must be analysed keeping in view of the universal and people-centric nature and must not be evaluated in terms of arms, adding that external financial vulnerability indicator was of critical importance for Pakistan to assess the threat to human security.

“Between the years 2020-2022, Pakistan witnessed a massive decline in human security indices and in the last two years 41 percent increase in the food prices was witnessed which significantly undermines food security and nutritional security of the people”.

He further stated that the divergence in development among the provinces was the other major issue, with the biggest problem being Balochistan where the per capita income had declined by 30-35 percent in the past two decades.

Dr Moeed Yusuf, former National Security Advisor, said the first national security policy of Pakistan came in 2022 that focused on ensuring that the most vulnerable people were safe, secure, had decent employment and their dignity was protected for economic security.

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“The pre-requisite of implementation is to have a benchmark to evaluate the implementation and the consolidation of indicators by Dr Hafeez Pasha is the next logical step”.

Amir Khan Goraya, assistant resident representative UNDP, questioned “what exactly the use of resources is being spent on distribution if there is no recycling and it will end up in the same place.”

He also highlighted the significance of carbon footprint recognition in the context of efficiency and stressed incentivizing sustainable production and devising sustainable consumption.

Dr Hamza Ali Malik, director Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development, UNESCAP, said, “There are two birth defects that Pakistan still confronts; one is the confusion as if we are a nation or Islamic state and the second being the type of government structure”.

Unless the core issues are resolved, course correction for policies is impossible and policy fatigue will continue without yielding optimal results. Going forward, Pakistan needs collaborative, corrective measures designed by economists and social scientists if the inequalities have to be addressed.

Rana Kaiser Ishaque, assistant resident representative UNDP, said that human security lies on building human capacity and is threatened by environmental hazards and biodiversity, political unrest, socio-economic disparities, technological havocs, which must be addressed to avert human security risks.

SDPI Executive Director Abid Qaiyum Suleri, speaking at another session titled, “Sustainable Consumption and Production in the context of Circular Economy and Climate Agenda”, said that “we need to promote the slogan that wealth belongs to an individual, but resources belong to the society and the concept of sustainable production and sustainable consumption is to promote social justice.”

Suleri said there was an abundance of policies with regard to production and consumption, but their implementation was less than desired. Emphasising learning from successful sustainable production and sustainable consumption models, he said that more emphasis was given to production but consumption was equally important.

Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha, former minister of state for finance and revenue, said the kind of reforms implemented in Pakistan were hitting the people hard, but no reforms to curtail the twin deficit of taxing the powerful segments and massive burden of recurring expenditures, pensions, and addressing privileges remained eluded due to lack of political will. She sought structural reforms to address the twin deficit, reducing the import burden and behavioural changes by the public to support these reforms.

Sanjay Vashist from CANCA, India, stressed the need for holding a discussion among stakeholders, including the government, civil society, policymakers, and the private sector in the context of sustainable production and sustainable consumption.

Dr Ali Kamal, the representative from SGDs Task Force, said “we need to use our resources responsibly as according to available data we waste 36 million tons of food annually.” He added that for sustainable growth and production, “we need to minimise the use of natural resources and materials in a manner which is socially beneficial, particularly from an environmental point of view.”

Engr Abdul Jabbar, a member of SDPI Board of Governors, said circular economy and circularity was the old concept but efficiency was the key in the context of production. “There is huge wastage of resources as according to estimates, an individual on average wastes 65kg of food per annum while instead of controlling it, it is increasing, therefore, waste management is the issue which demands special attention.”

Former Health Minister Dr Zafar Mirza enunciated the intricacies of climate change and the complex interplay between the health impacts of environmental degradation impacts. He said that climate change had emerged as an all-encompassing determinant of health in recent times. He recommended that climate change had to be integrated into the healthcare organisations, policy systems, and institutions relevant to the field. Dr Mirza said the issues like smog had different sources but almost all of them were manmade and preventable. Dr Mahwish Hayee from OPM said Pakistan highlighted that the country lacked robust greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions registries critical for guiding scientific evidence related to carbon emissions of the country.

At another session on “Climate-Smart Food Systems: Enhancing Sustainability, Supply Chains, and Consumer Welfare”, experts called for providing proper climate resilient policies, plans, training, technology, and state-of-the-art machinery to the farmers to enhance per acre yield thereby ensuring their profitability on a sustainable basis.

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