LAHORE - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has said that Pakistan is watching its own interests in trade with India and there will be no compromise on the interests of the domestic industry.

“The government is committed to facilitating the business community and we are watching the entire development on the subject and won’t compromise on the interests of the country’s business community,” said the prime minister, speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday. LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar presented address of welcome. Federal Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Manzoor Wattoo and Federal Commerce Secretary Munir Qureshi also spoke on the occasion.

He said the government has reset its priorities by laying greater focus on improving law and order situation, equitable electricity load shedding and promotion of the private sector. He said the present government was ready to implement all doable energy projects without any hindrance because it believed in the private sector’s growth. “The government and the private sector are on the same page to rid the country of the economic ills being faced today,” he stated.

The prime minister said the government was working on a number of coal and solar power projects that were not that inexpensive as being portrayed, however, with the passage of time they would be in easy access of the consumers.

He said that on the request of Dr Samar Mubarik Mund, the government gave immediate response to Thar coal gasification projects which were well on way. He, however, made it clear the project entailed many things, including power generation stations and transmission lines, for their connectivity with the national grid.

Ashraf said that if the federating units developed a consensus on Kalabagh Dam today, the government would initiate construction of the dam. The prime minister said the government was also focusing on the hydel component of electricity and had expedited work on all hydel projects.

The prime minister said it was not only Pakistan but many other countries, including India, Middle East, Bangladesh, Bhutan and other SAARC countries, were also facing the demand and supply issue of electricity. He also announced to take LCCI as a member in the Energy Crisis Committee under his chairmanship.

Prime Minister Pervaiz Ashraf said the country’s progress and prosperity depended on the well-being of the business community. If the business prospered, the country would automatically grow. “We believe in our people, particularly businessmen and industrialists, and will together steer the country out of the prevailing challenges,” he maintained.

Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar said the biggest problem the business community and generally the whole of Pakistan were facing was the severe shortage of energy. The brunt of this crisis is getting worse by the day. He said: “We must adopt measures to address this issue urgently as it is crippling the national economy.”

The LCCI president stressed the need to make a substantial investment in the development of the power sector infrastructure that was capable of meeting the country’s growing needs. He urged the government to allocate at least Rs 200 billion per year or 10% of the total budget for energy projects such as Dasu Power Project, Diamer Bhasha Dam, Munda Dam, Kohala Hydropower Project and Kurram Tungi Dam to produce cheap energy. He said that none of these projects except Diamer Bhasha Dam had a storage capacity for water. He added Kalabagh dam was the most viable project to address the energy issue, but unfortunately, the project had fallen prey to politics. He said Pakistan was a water-stressed country. “By 2025, our water storage capacity per capita is expected to drop to 700 cubic meters from the current 1,038 cubic meters and when this happens, we will be a water-scarce country. It is essential to act now to avert such a situation,” he observed.

Farooq Iftikhar said the problem of circular debt must also be tackled on sustainable basis. He said Pakistan had immense potential to produce cheap and reliable electricity through coal and proposed that sizeable funds be allocated for the development of Thar Coal Project.