Power supply should not be dependent on weather
That power outages have returned once again to its regular frequency after a short spell of respite because of favourable weather, highlights, yet again, the stupendous failure of the incumbent Awami League-Jatiya Party government to address the issue of power shortage in the country, despite much hullaballoo and tall claims. Bear in mind, the incumbents, ever since assuming power in January 2009, have been clamouring hard over steps to address power shortage – one of their most important electoral pledges, going as far as to claim that by the beginning of 2012 power outages would stop taking place. It is July 2012 and power outages are very much a strong reality of the day-to-day lives of the people of the country. And yet, during his budget speech for the fiscal 2012-13 during the first week of June, the finance minister once more blatantly resorted to making tall claims when he said Bangladesh would be in a position of producing more power than is required by next year. The government fended off the first two years while in power, of excruciating power shortages, by blaming the previous government for its failure to add any new power to the national grid. Then it put in place a controversial law to allow it impunity in handing over power plant contracts to companies of their choice, bypassing the usual system of tenders. By virtue of that, the government rushed to hand over contracts for oil-guzzling rental power plants – a hugely expensive endeavour to produce power, and they were so confident they had made the right decision that the premier had not very kindly remarked that those who criticise the decision to produce power through rental plants should have their power lines cut off. Rental plants, unfortunately, has hiked up government subsidy for the purchase of fuel oil and government borrowing to finance the subsidy, exorbitantly, has left the foreign exchange reserve tottering, essentially leaving the entire economy in tatters. The government, by the end of it, were somewhat in a position to add new power to the national grid, but had made it so outrageously expensive – retail power was hiked four times in 11 months – not just for consumers but for the government as well – the government paid Tk 1400 crore in subsidies in the previous fiscal – that it eventually found itself in the same position – of prolonged hours of power outages.
According to a report published on the front-page of New Age on Saturday, it would appear that the five-day respite from power failure that people enjoyed over the last week was, sadly, a result of fall in demand due to pleasant weather and high price, as well as power system failure in Chittagong because of water-logging. It is however unacceptable that uninterrupted supply of power should have to depend on such things as weather condition. The government should clean up their act, in whatever time is left in their present tenure, with regards to the power sector, and take both short and long term steps to alleviate power shortage in a sustainable manner.
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