ISLABABAD -  Pakistan’s oil imports are likely to increase during next few months due to the closure of CNG stations.

The government had decided to close CNG stations for three months (December to February) due to severe gas shortage in the country. The demand of petrol and diesel by the transport sector would escalate due to the closure of 2,500 CNG stations in Punjab (out of 3,495 CNG outlets across the country). Therefore, the country’s oil import bill would sharply increase, putting further pressure on depleting foreign exchange reserves.

According to the latest figures of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the country has spent $6.46 billion during first five months (July-November) of the ongoing financial year 2013-2014.

 The government, in its Annual Plan 2013-2014, had estimated that oil import bill for the current financial year would remain $15.96 billion.

However, sources informed that oil import bill might surge to $17 billion due to the massive increase in demand of petrol and diesel.

The government would spend precious foreign exchange reserves on importing oil in the country. The reserves are already pressure due to the repayments to IMF (International Monetary Fund).

 The total liquid foreign reserves held by the country stood at $8,090.2 million on 20th December, 2013.

The break-up of the foreign reserves position is as under: - Foreign reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan $3,192.9 million and net foreign reserves held by banks (other than SBP) $4,897.3 million.

Sources said that the country’s oil import bill is expected to increase by $500 million during the three months closure of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) outlets in Punjab as a result of higher demand for petroleum products by the transport sector.

The reason behind CNG loadshedding in Punjab is its small share in total gas output of the country: Punjab produces only 5 percent of the country’s total gas while it consumes 45 percent.

Sindh at present is the largest gas-producing province with 57 percent of the national natural gas production, followed by Balochistan with 20 percent, and Khyber Paktunkhwa (KPK) produces 18 percent. Sindh’s share in national natural gas consumption is 40 percent, Punjab’s 45 percent, KPK 9 percent and Balochistan consumes 6 percent of the gas.