The CNG ban

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The proposed ban on CNG kits is yet another example of unplanned, ad hoc policy making, reflecting a disturbing gap between on ground reality and the government’s understanding of some of the people’s most basic concerns. Simply banning CNG kits, in the absence of a viable alternate public transport system, will immediately distort market prices, encourage corruption and smuggling, and bite into people’s budgets in times of already high inflation, rigid wages and depressed employment.
According to our news report, consumers have invested a combined Rs70 billion just on CNG conversion since the process gathered steam in the mid ‘90s. And with this particular head only accounting for 10 per cent of available gas supply, which is further diminished because of controlled availability, the difference on the overall supply equation stands to be negligible once the ban is enforced. In real terms, such steps will only compound problems for the middle and lower income groups, whose earning power has progressively diminished in the three-and-a-half years of the present government.
The decision is all the more surprising since it comes without any alternative means of addressing people’s problems. Simply enforcing such bans will only add to overall problems, while adding to the government’s unpopularity. Granted, industry is severely compromised due to energy shortage. But measures that add to people’s misery while doing little beneficial for industry or the economy are self-defeating. It behooves the government to ensure energy shortage is dealt with in a proactive manner, rather than squeezing the productive segment of society. With elections not very far, Islamabad seems scrambling to posture towards an energy efficient outlook. Not addressing power problems at the right time was bad enough. But groping in the dark and presenting half-cut solutions will just not wash with the people anymore. Concerned quarters are advised to reconsider such steps.