KARACHI - The Ministry of Finance has set six months deadline to wipe out Rs150 billion worth circular debt of Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO). This decision would ensure a smooth sailing of the power sector that would further minimise the agony of loadshedding throughout the country. Prime Minister's Adviser on Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin disclosed this in an interview to The Nation at his residence. He said the circular debt of PEPCO has triggered loadshedding as the oil companies had either reduced or suspended furnace oil supply to the power producers that ultimately turned the loadshedding into a serious power crisis. According to Tarin, a recent high-level meeting in Islamabad has decided that the Ministry of Finance would handle the debt-related issues of the power companies. After the meeting, the Federal Government not only released about Rs16 billion to ease loadshedding, but also took administrative measures that led to the additional generation of around 1400 to 1500 MW electricity, helping the government reduce the loadshedding. "Now I have given a deadline of six months to the Ministry of Finance to eliminate the circular debt worth Rs150 billion of PEPCO," Adviser said. He pointed out that the Term Finance Certificates would be issued soon to mop up Rs75 billion while another 75 billion rupees would be generated through the assets of the power companies to clear the debt in six months. A few weeks ago, the shortfall of electricity mounted to about 6000 MWs that led to hours-long unscheduled loadshedding and triggered riots. However, the intervention of the federal government has provided relief to the consumers as the electricity production has been increased. Tarin said the previous government had lost a golden opportunity to rid the country of energy crisis. The previous government remained in power for eight years, but the past rulers neglected this sector that climaxed into magnifying the intensity of energy crisis. He, however, said the present government has prepared an integrated energy programme to eliminate power and gas shortage. He pointed out that a public-private partnership would be promoted to overcome the energy crisis on long-term basis. He said cheaper resources of power generation such as hydel, coal, wind, solar and renewable energy would be lined up to produce low-cost electricity. He said at the end of 2009, the Federal Government would bring the power shortage to the bottom line while in 2010, electricity loadshedding would be eliminated completely. The Federal Government has also geared up efforts to acquire gas from Iran that would help to overcome the gas crisis, from the day the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project gets ready, he added. Tarin maintained that the reduction of inter-corporate circular debt is a key feature of our consolidated fiscal policy to narrow fiscal deficit in FY09. According to Tarin, the year 2009 is the year of recovery vis-a-vis economy of Pakistan while in 2010 the country would again witness a robust growth in the economy. Tarin sets six-month deadline