Islamabad: Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives, Ahsan Iqbal, announced on Tuesday that the federal and provincial governments reached a unanimous decision to implement an "energy conservation plan" by closing markets across the country by 8 pm.
Speaking to journalists after a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Ahsan Iqbal revealed that the NEC approved the estimated budget figures.
Highlighting the energy challenges faced by Pakistan due to global prices, Iqbal mentioned that Saudi Arabia's reduction in oil production by one million barrels poses a risk of oil prices reaching $100 per barrel. He stressed the vulnerability of Pakistan's economy if it continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels and oil for energy consumption.
In an effort to address these challenges, the government aims to implement measures related to energy conservation. Iqbal noted that last year, the federal cabinet pledged to enforce decisions outlined in the National Energy Conservation Plan. However, since provincial representatives were not present at the meeting, the implementation of the plan was not ensured. Now, the government hopes that provincial governments will cooperate in executing the approved energy conservation package.
The energy conservation plan includes various steps such as closing shops and commercial centers by 8 pm, transitioning to energy-efficient LED lights, and upgrading geysers to enhance energy efficiency. It is estimated that these measures could result in annual savings of up to $1 billion for the country.
Additionally, the government has decided to prioritize the promotion of green energy, focusing on solar, wind, and hydel energy projects. Ahsan Iqbal emphasized that no new projects relying on imported fuel will be introduced, aligning with the government's commitment to sustainable energy solutions.
Regarding the budget, Ahsan Iqbal disclosed that the government has set a realistic GDP growth target of 3.5% for the financial year 2023-24. The minister emphasized that the government is making choices that lead the country towards stability. He mentioned the development spending, which is set at Rs1,150 billion ($4.02 billion).
Under the Annual Development Plan (ADP) proposed by the NEC for the upcoming fiscal year, the total outlay amounts to Rs2.709 trillion. This includes the development budget of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for four months, and if their full budgets are included, the figure will exceed Rs3 trillion. The federal government plans to allocate Rs1,150 billion under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP 2023-24), while the provinces will allocate Rs1,559 billion for various development projects.
Despite severe financial challenges, Ahsan Iqbal highlighted the significant allocation of Rs1,150 billion under the PSDP, considering it a milestone achievement of the incumbent government.
During the media talk, Iqbal acknowledged the challenging economic situation, stating that the government will be unable to fully repay its debt through federal revenue. He emphasized the need for borrowing to cover essential expenditures such as salaries, defense budget, development budget, pension, and subsidies.
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