ISLAMABAD - Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday said that national economy has become stable, as all the foreign financial institutions are showering praises on government’s economic measures.

“It is due to Government’s tireless efforts and their positive impact on the economy that Moody’s improved Pakistan’s rating outlook last year from negative to stable and, more recently, from stable to positive. The Standard and Poor’s had followed suit”, Finance Minister said while addressing the launching ceremony of IFC’s Lighting Pakistan Programme.

The Minister went on to say that major initiatives now underway in terms of power generation, transmission system upgrades, LNG, diversified fuel based projects as well as alternative/ renewable energy projects would transform the landscape of the power sector within the next three years. This should add 1.0pc to 1.5pc to Pakistan’s GDP growth rate, he remarked.  Ishaq Dar said the government was taking all possible measures to ensure energy security and sustainable development in the country. “In a bid to diversify the country’s energy mix, we have been giving due attention to fast track development of Alternative/ Renewable Energy (ARE) resources in the country. The Alternative Energy Development Board has been pursuing the development of renewable energy power projects through the private sector in the country. As a result, more than $1 billion investment had been made alone in the wind energy sector in the last couple of years.” Five wind power projects with a cumulative capacity of 255.4 MW were operational at the moment and another eight wind power projects having a cumulative capacity of 429 MW were under construction. Two bagasse based projects with a cumulative capacity of 52 MW were also operational, Dar added.  The Minister further said the Government was also leading the way in bringing in standardisation of quality in solar products, particularly for imported products, through the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB). It was being ensured that quality solar devices were imported into Pakistan so that the consumers got value for money and Pakistan avoided market spoilage. Late last year, the Government took a big step in removing tariffs on the import of solar products to help meet the gap between demand and supply in our energy sector. This meant quality products could now be retailed to the consumers at the lowest cost possible. He said we are also seeking to drive demand for solar and wind technologies by introducing net metering so that households installing solar or wind technologies on their residential and commercial properties could reduce their energy bill by feeding energy back into the grid.

The Government had built a 100 MW solar plant in Punjab, as part of its plan of 1,000 MW from solar energy, so that it would lead the way to large scale private sector investment in renewable in Pakistan.

The Minister talking about the IFC’s Lighting Program said that supported by other important development partners - UK AID and AusAID - it was an important intervention to address the energy problem in the country as it would serve to provide clean energy solutions to millions of off-grid consumers. He said the ‘Pakistan Lighting Consumer Perceptions Study’ being released by IFC, revealed that $2.2 billion were spent every year on off-grid lighting products by Pakistani households. This was a very large sum of money and meant that an average household spent Rs850 per month on traditional lighting sources. In that context he highlighted the importance of quality based solar products and said he was pleased to know that IFC was now seeking to roll out these standardised products in Pakistan.

The Finance Minister thanked the International Finance Commission for launching this important programme.

The Pakistan Off-Grid Lighting Consumer Perceptions Study, released at the launch, underscored the problem of power shortage in Pakistan. The report showed that most Pakistani households rely on conventional  and low-quality mix of battery powered torches, kerosene, and candles that do not meet their lighting needs. The Lighting Pakistan program will help raise awareness amongst these households about alternatives including quality solar-powered lighting products. The programme is supported by IFC’s development partners UKAID and Australia AID. It is also part of IFC’s wider strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions and boost clean energy projects.