Frustration is growing among electricity sector stakeholders due to significant delays in the publication of crucial reports by the electricity regulator, essential for informed decision-making. In particular, the lack of up-to-date data hampers the efficient functioning of the sector.
The World Bank’s Public Expenditure Review report highlighted the urgent need for computerized mechanisms capable of generating timely, aggregated data on public enterprises. This is seen as vital to expedite critical decision-making processes, including the imminent privatization of XWDISCOs.
The World Bank has actively advocated for the divestment of shares of public companies in the stock market as a practical solution for a gradual privatization of these entities. For potential shareholders, XWDISCO’s transparent annual reports that provide insight into their financial health are essential for evaluating these companies as investment opportunities. Unfortunately, these reports often experience significant delays in their release, even though the information may be available privately.
Additionally, the much-anticipated “State of the Industry” report on the electricity sector has also experienced delays in its annual release, leaving policymakers and researchers awaiting its critical findings.
Power sector experts point out that this report is invaluable, providing a detailed overview of Pakistan’s power sector. It covers a wide range of critical aspects including operational performance and financial impact of issues such as low recovery rates, increasing transmission and distribution losses, network overload and many other challenges. For researchers, this document constitutes the cornerstone of evidence-based policy development.
Experts say access to information is the first step toward developing comprehensive policies based on solid data. However, the lack of data sharing and information flow between different governing bodies, policy research organizations, educational institutions and industry circles poses a significant challenge, especially as Pakistan’s economy is at a loss. grappling with stagnation and recovery efforts.
The World Bank has recommended the creation of a central database under the Ministry of Finance, designed to present performance-based data, portfolio-level information and entity exposure information.
Over the past three years, circular debt in the energy sector has reached unsustainable levels, requiring annual increases in government-set electricity prices to address this challenge. Rising inflation is affecting the ability of many consumers to pay their electricity bills and has reportedly led to an increase in incidents of theft.
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Although the publication of such reports is a legal obligation under the Electric Power Production, Transmission and Distribution Regulation Act 1997, the current situation reveals a time lag and a lack of synergy between government institutions. The recent World Bank report “Pakistan Public Expenditure Review 2023” highlighted the shortcomings of the Ministry of Finance and line ministries in maintaining up-to-date data essential for evidence-based analysis and decision-making.
“These delays compromise the speed of interventions, with a significant impact in areas such as the tax revenue shortfall. The inability to establish forward linkages between revenue collection authorities and banking databases prevents the finance division from accurately accounting and evaluating policies necessary for sustainable economic growth,” officials say.
Many experts see the current conditions as an ideal opportunity to establish a governance system in which data plays a central role in the advancement of Pakistan’s knowledge-based economy. The lack of available information affects the quality of policy research and the formulation of effective strategies.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th2023.