Don’t blame the gas crisis on the government

Published: December 16, 2011
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When Pakistan started moving from petrol to CNG, din't anybody think that this resource was going to deplete one day? PHOTO: FILE

We may be dealing with multiple crises as a nation, but one incident in particular is simply being blown out of proportion –  the issue of the CNG shortage.

People are infuriated about the shortage of gas, and have every right to be. CNG is a cheaper fuel alternative to petrol, but the gas has been getting increasingly expensive for a while, and its very availability is becoming a growing issue.

The shortage of compressed natural gas (CNG) has led to industries threatening shut downs and workers protesting, as they have no jobs. Industries keep printing ads in the papers about how they are losing billions of rupees due to the gas shortage and how people are being laid off to cut costs. They have a point; anyone who has ever been exposed to any industry, especially the textile industry, will realise how important gas is for the production process -without it, a lot of processes are incomplete.

Thus, running out of gas is a serious issue, not just for Pakistani industry but for the people as well.

While this has been going on, our media has come forward to report this situation and present a grim picture of how our government is destroying everything.

Let us have a look at what is really going on.

Firstly, the CNG crisis has come about due to a very simple reason. Pakistan has limited resources, including gas. That means it will eventually run out of it; but our media and people do not seem to understand this very fundamental principle of economics. Over the years, due to the massive increase in gas consumption, the amount of this limited resource has decreased substantially. In addition to this, the lack of new finds and the development of new gas fields is taking longer than anybody thought. This gas has to be used for domestic purposes, industries, and also CNG stations. Our existing reserve is depleting and the amount of gas available each year is swiftly declining. Basic common sense tells you that if something is decreasing in quantity while its quantity used is increasing, it will lead to a shortage and the available gas for consumption is going to decrease over time.

Our media, however, never got around to explaining this fact. Even sensible people somehow don’t understand how the concept of limited of resources operates. It is easy to blame the government, but how can you blame them for something like depleting gas reserves? Does it make sense?

Add to this another piece of information that people never talk about. When Pakistan started moving towards CNG consumption, did no one think that this resource was going to be depleted? Did no one actually think that if we use CNG for transport it would mean lower gas availability for household and industrial users? These are simple and straightforward questions, and yet somehow, our “investigative media” forgot to think about them.

How can we blame the government for this mess and take no responsibility for it? It is not the government’s fault that we did not want to pay the extra  Rs15 for a litre of petrol.

We are to blame for the current gas crisis we are facing – this behemoth problem was created by us. It was a conscious decision of everyone in Pakistan to use CNG instead of petrol, while knowing that this would lead to the depletion of gas reserves over time. And now that time is here, we are chickening out of taking any responsibility and our media is doing what it does best – blaming the government and trying to make headlines out of it. Our lack of progress as a country is not just because of bad governance, it is also a result of our inability to take the blame for our mistakes and bad decisions.

Adnan.rasool

Adnan Khalid Rasool

Currently the Deputy Executive Director Center for Enterprise, Trade and Development, Adnan is also a political analyst working mainly on electoral politics and political campaign management. He tweets at @adnanrasool

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • umair

    superb superb article. Finally a sensible voice. Now waiting for comments like “Pakistan has unlimited gas”, “this is all a conspiracy”, “gas shortage is a sham”. In truth CNG stations are the biggest culprits for the gas shortage and ALL of us are to be blamed for that. Gas should be reserved for industry. Textile & Fertilizer industries are taking a huge hit because of this.Recommend

  • Corrupt

    No, we should blame America and Israel for Gas Crisis.

    next few blogs in line …. ‘Don’t blame Govt. for rise in Dollar’s exchange rate.’, …for PIA… for Pak Railway.. for F-O-L-L-O-W-I-N-G Judiciary’s Orders.. etc.Recommend

  • Faisal Hayat

    Respected Author!!
    totally agree to the point that resources are declining and usage is increasing infact at mass level all time high and still lots of potential BUT i have a simple question to ask from Ministry of Petroleum that they didn’t know that eventually this resource gonna decline and they still decided to shift whole transport sector to CNG & proudly declared Pakistan is the No.1 country in using CNG as fuel.
    To me this is been a total lapse in term of policy making and shortsightedness. Now as an immediate measure, aggressively cut CNG usage in transport sector and alternatively improve public transport to bring in some balance and enhance efforts to bring in Iran-Pak pipe line or from some central Asian state.
    Vision is all what we requires.Recommend

  • M.Abbas

    The general public isn’t responsible for keeping in mind the number of available resources in the country. Rather its the government’s resposiblity to look after the balance of ‘demand & supply’ for any article, yes indeed, the government is solely responsible who spends millions, billions or maybe more on ‘the departments of statistics’ which are spending huge amounts on conducting studies & surveys on federal as well as provincial basis. The government should have announced the maximum number of vehicles to have been allowed to install cng kits, instead it (government) kept promoting the cng industry for more than a decade by issuing the filling station licences to every street of the country & announcing cng as ‘enviroment friendly fuel’. The majority of population which consists of illetrate people don’t even know the place of birth of gas in Pakistan except for the name of major gas companies in country whose name starts from the word ‘Sui’, how could the writer expect this nation to know the exact statistics & amount of reserves that are available in the country.Recommend

  • jawad

    the govt should simply close all CNG stations from the month of december to fabruary atleast, when the gas is mostly needed for domestic purposes…if the CNG stations r open nobody will ever go for petrol. It can only happen once all CNG stations across the country r completely closed…Recommend

  • Haseeb Uddin

    While I agree and appreciate that lack of resources is the responsibility of he people how ever, how the auther has tried to shift all liability to the people from the law makers is simply bizzare. I think writing of this article was simply an act to cover the government’s faults and thier mis handling. Recommend

  • Muhammad Kaisar

    Dumb article…….
    may be the writer can afford patrol.
    he doesn’t know that in patrol one can cover 10-15kms for rs 90 and for CNG one can cover 35-45 kms in rs 66. but you just consider it rs 15 difference…
    It is only mismangement for goverment nothing else…. sind has no shortfall but punjab has………
    how comes………..????Recommend

  • Asjad Khan

    For one it is not 15 rps extra…I have been using CNG for around 3 years now and I Think at no point 15rps was the difference. How can you deprive the governments of it’s responsibility to find new reverses? Besides was it not the government’s responsibility to check on long term viability of Gas for transfer? is it my responsibility to calculate the demand and supply equilibrium for years to come?Recommend

  • Asad

    finally an article that makes sense.!!! bravo. Recommend

  • Baba Ji

    @ Author : agreed !!!

    and yes we ourselves are responsible for cutting the branch we are sitting on … Does govt. say to have roaches and rats in PIA planes? the inefficiency of an air hostess or an engineer or any staff member is not on the behest of govt. !!!! Or govt. suggests to delay the flights? yes I am sure govt. says to delay the trains, to do fraud in steel mill, to be be inefficient in all fields of life ,,,,, come on guys and gals … just look around you today when you are in your office or work place … and ask yourselves, is govt telling all these people to be inefficient ? to throw garbage around ? to lie to everyone ? try to dupe everyone ? and not to take this country as your own home ? …. look inwards please …. it is time for serious self analysis as a nation … Recommend

  • Humayun Shafiq

    grate article.. Recommend

  • Kal Harmon

    Maybe if some Pakistanis would stop having so many children the resources of the country would not be consumed so quickly. It is irresponsible for some people to have 5, 6, 7 children or more when they can barely afford to feed themselves.

    These people are selfish and only think of themselves because they do not consider the miserable lives that these children will have and the difficulty the of the world they will live in.

    2 children is plenty. Weather you get a girl and boy, two boys or two girls, you should love them as they were sent from the Almighty.

    The biggest enemy of Pakistan is not the USA or Israel or India, it is those Pakistanis that only think of themselves.

    There are plenty of resources, just too many Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Ch.Shan

    Totally agree with the author but there is a part of Government as well in the shortage of the Gas Supply to the industries like Textile particularly. Government should balance the supply and demand of the gas. As we all know that our 90% industry is running its power plants and production plants with the gas then how come the government is allowing every businessman to open a CNG Station at every corner of his street.
    Obviously they have to get permission and license from the Government official for the CNG Station. And now a days you would find the CNG Stations at every corner like Cigarette and Pan shops. To maintain our economic and production cycle we should minimize the usage of gas to that level that Industry can get the boom again and the labor can get their jobs back.Recommend

  • Paki-Australian

    Pointless write up – people blame the govt not for the depleting gas reserves but the bad strategy & apparent in-action for a resolve!Recommend

  • Ali Faruq

    I have heard such stuff from so many people, tell me the solution.Recommend

  • Sajid Ali

    In my view the incorrect gas pricing (from wellhead to consumers) policy is the key reason that we are experiencing declining supplies and rising demand for gas. The current government is rightly blamed for maintaing the status quo in this sector. Recommend

  • http://thecricketinsight.blogspot.com/ Hmmm

    You make sense at times but the article overall is poorly researched.

    This may give you a better idea

    http://www.brecorder.com/home/br-research/single/421/999:all/2152:pressure-politics-on-gas-while-electricity-shortage-looms/?date=2011-12-09Recommend

  • NA

    yes but isn’t is governments responsibility to look for new gas reserves or start importing gas from Iran. Shouldn’t it be governments responsibility to discourage use of gas in this country where 60-70% of people are illiterate or semi illiterate.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The basic function of any government is to formulate and implement short term and more importantly long term policies to benefit the country – this can not be denied.
    What we have had over the years are policies that benefit first the individual, then vested industries and businesses, the country has never ever, been the priority.
    So your argument of not blaming the government does not hold up. Recommend

  • umar…

    @Muhammad Kaisar

    CNG one can cover 35-45 kms in rs 66…!!!
    Khota cart itna khate hoge..!Recommend

  • Mann’ Chalaa

    Dear author

    If not govt whom should we blame? Common man is not a policy maker,so its the govt. who chose to transform the economy into CNG ECONOMY…

    My dear freind, i agree when CNG was introduced every one started using CNG instead of petrol, n y should not? only a filthy rich or insane person will continue buying an expensive good when the cheaper is available in the market… LAW OF COMMON SENSE….

    They say Pakistan has abundant gas resources, so why the government is not exploring and utilizing? now blame the common man why he has not explored gas reservoirs… !

    leave this gas issue aside, how will u defend the govt and blame the ppl on electricity issue???

    We have abundant gas, electricity, water etc etc… but the main motive of this govt is to ZALIL the common man….Recommend

  • Ali Noor

    Our car engines are not designed to be run on cng. Consumption of gas for vehicles should be banned as soon as possible or the deficit will increase. What did people do in the good old days? They walked did they not and if walking is hard buy bicycles or pay for petrol and dont be cheap. Recommend

  • Irshad Khan

    There was no shortage of gas 4 years back; It appeared suddenly with a substantial price increase. It should be probed properly as if it is not due to any mis-management and also not due to good management of black-marketing. Further, if any step has been taken to increase its production and also for its import from Iran, Muscat and other Gulf states and what are results or only lip service and blaming previous governments. How many more years shall we continue to blame previous governments and sit comfortably? Recommend

  • AK

    Well if Benazir’s government had not bankrupted this country with setting up IPPs(Independent Power Plants) which burned furnace oil, then this huge dramatic shift to gas would never have happened. Since dams take a very long time to build and thermal power plants which burn furnace oil or gas can be set up within two years, our corrupt regimes choose the thermal option so that they can get hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks. With building dams this corrupt lot is always afraid that they will not be in power by the time the dams are completed, thus they take the option which only suits their interests. We don”t produce enough electricity only because we cannot afford the fuel for it. That is the prime reason industry started to shift to gas. Governments are supposed to plan for the future as well as make the right decisions for the nation. Blaming ordinary people for this rather than the government is way off the mark. It’s like saying that Zardari made billions of dollars but he’s not to blame because we indirectly elected him(through rigged elections) so the people should be blamed. Recommend

  • Muhammad Tahir Younus

    Dear Author:

    Some time ago you write such an article about electricity crises. Your line of arguments in both articles absolves govt. from these basic crises affecting our lives so badly, so what’s the function of Govt. by the way? Making money out of crises? Recommend

  • MK

    @Baba Ji:

    Your response is typical polarized one. PUT BLAME ON ONE SIDE ONLY. But aren’t we all guilty of that. Both common people and Government are responsible collectively for most evils that we face in general. This article is exclusively about shortage of a Key commodity and government responsibility (or not), so I will stick mostly to that and say that here it is governments of past and present who share a bigger responsibility for current problem. Without exploring and securing future source of CNG they started issuing licenses to CNG stations as well as import permits for CNG kits and cylinders and promoting it as an alternative to oil. We all know oil is depleting as well and is a major cost to our foreign reserves, and eventually is going to deplete but that has not stopped the world driving cars or the author from recommending oil as an alternative to gas. It is government’s job to device a policy that fits our particular needs and environment. We have Qatar, Turkmenistan and Iran in our close neighborhood who collectively have more than 2 thirds of world gas supply and are eager to sell it at competitive rates. Government should make policies and make efforts to buy from them same as bigger economies of India and China are doing. Japan who is one of the biggest producers of steel in the world has no iron reserves at all. China is securing and buying raw material from all over the world and leasing farms in Africa to feed their people. Lack of certain raw materials has not stopped China from progressing or Japan from being biggest producer of steel. Government should have foresight to plan ahead and formulate policies for the people.
    Note: I do agree with you about people throwing garbage all around and trying to dupe others all the time. When you generalize it is a shared blame, but it is not wise to absolve government of everything. Our family got conned when buying a small plot, guy sold it to multiple people and collected money, ran off abroad, came back after 5 years and was finally caught (people tracked him down and reported to police, police never made an effort to track him), no one has gotten their money yet, even after going to courts. Should I blame only him or the government as well for not providing social justice? And sending a signal to these prople that they can get away with whatever they can. Recommend

  • Ahmad Kamal

    @ ADNAN KHALID RASOOL…what you have said is correct if we analyze the same in context of supply & demand. but can you answer few economics questions your self:
    !: if Gas is scares (which it is ) then why Govt issued unlimited CNG licenses…
    2: If Gas is scares then why govt has pushed its sale & behind the scene appreciate the price of petrol to cover its deficits
    3: If Gas is Scares than why Govt hasn’t prodentiallized any new reserves
    4: If Gas is Scares than why we can have thought the one day Gas will be used for making electricity
    SO People are Naive which i admit since they are looking after their own selves which is natural but why the hell Govt has acted Naive & low sighted when she can make good & long strategic policies.Recommend

  • Umar

    @ Author.

    GREAT SUGGESTION. Use Oil which we do not have and spend billions to import, but do not use Gas that we still have and can buy from Iran very easily and is cheaper then importing oil. How about available resources here . Solar and Hydro, but i guess you think people have to build dams on self help basis??????????? and government has no responsibility. Recommend

  • Annas

    Dear Author,

    I don’t understand why you think government shouldn’t bear the blame. As a common citizen it is not my responsibility to check how much gas reserves we are left with. Reserves don’t deplete suddenly. When being in government they knew gas reserves are decreasing then why shift your auto industry to CNG completely. Why give CNG stations license to open more pumps.
    Secondly, to improve gas situation in the country I would not have sit idly and do nothing and just say well you know its natural our reserves are decreasing. I would have made sure to make agreements to import gas via Iran, and if it is not possible then with Tajakistan or Turkey or someone else. But unfortunately being a common citizen I cannot do that. It’s the governement’s responsibility to do something and that’s why our media and citizens are rightfully upset when government fails to take any action on this issue.Recommend

  • Ghaffar Baloch

    Good job, but why such a lengthy article for a demunitive message? It could have been written in a solely line ” Gas crisis is because of high demand “. I don’t think so! It’s just for making people fool. Balochistan had been bestowed hundreds of variable minerals including in a vast territory of natural has of Sui. But unfortunately it’s been deprived of using of it’s own gas. Sui gas & CNG has not been available in 85% of Balochistan since the discovery of this even within Balochistan. Where is it going, of course other provinces. The full story is yet hiden to people of Pakistan. Balochistan is becoming Bangladesh day in & day out. Save it before its too late.Recommend

  • Baba Ji

    @MK:

    as you said NOT to blame one side only … my take on this is that government is also you and me isn’t it ? we ALL (govt. included) have created all this mess … its a peoples’ government, a so called democracy, and our representatives are the law makers … hum sub aik hi thailee kay chattay battay hain :)
    cheersRecommend

  • MD

    totally agree with the author, but the govt need to formulate a policy on immediate basics about the decreasing the usage of cng eventually cutting down to 10 to 15% compare to what is now being used. this high consumption of cng causing not only problems of shortage of gas reserve but also creating massive traffic disorder due to increase in the use of vehicles(which is due to low price of cng compare to petrol)Recommend

  • lodhi

    The government should have clearly informed the public on the issue.Ministry of petroleum and Planning Division are responsible for this state of affairs. Why the use of C.N.G was not controlled over the years? People cant be blamed for this situation.Had I known about it earlier I would not have got C.N.G kit installed in my car.Recommend

  • http://caffeinedose.wordpress.com Asad

    @Author

    Do you really know what Government is responsibile for? Or because of it’s continuous failure you have assumed that it would be unfair with Government if I ask basic necessities. Depletion is not the problem of Pakistan alone, it happens all around the world. Solution?? The solution is to find new reserves of gases. Who should find those reserves? You or me??? No, in our country there is a ministry formed which is called Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Reaources. It is Government’s responsibility to find new reserves of gases.
    Fine, what if government do not find new reserves? Yap there is a likelihood but then you have alternate options to import gases from Central Asia/Iran/GCC. (it might be a cheaper option as well) So is it your or my responsbility to import gas from these countries? No it is Governments’s responsibility to import gas from these countries.

    You’re absolutely right that people have relied too much on gas without knowing that the reserves will be depleted. So, was it my responsibility to bother about it???? No we have a planning commission to inform the Government about the depleting resources. (which perhaps they did) but then it was Government’s responsibility to pass relevant laws restricting/controlling the opening of new cng stations and sale of CNG kits for your and mine vehicle

    Your article reminds me of a joke I saw recently about the attitude of Pakistanis in comparison with japaense. Here it goes

    Japanese attitude 4 work: If somebody has done it, I should also do it, if no one has done it, I must do it

    Pakistani attitude 4 work: If somebody has done it, why should I do it, if no one has done it, how can I do it

    I didn’t vote to these parties so that I take the blame of mismanagement on myself. The are the administrators of this country and should take the repsonisbilities for the problems I face.Recommend

  • amrita

    and the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline cooperation is being abandoned because of our fault and not government’s incompetence.Recommend

  • Asad

    Why my comments are not yet published? Didnt abuse anyoneRecommend

  • Shoaib Javed

    yes this article is very right from elites point of view sitting in the benz driving BMWs arrogantly around the streets because they can afford it while the middle class still deprived in our country have no other means to afford the petrol……yes it is very easy :gareeb khattam kardo gurbaat khuudi kaam hogai gi……..people elect government for the provisions of solution….to look ahead of time and identify the problems that the nation will face in future and provide solution ahead of time but unfortunately our government is totally blind and have lack of vision they only see or interested where they see money ,commissions such as rental power plants….they care how much it cost to their nation.
    Every problem has a solution but for this u need sincerity ….but this avarice government has no intension…..
    If you look at you gas consumption statistic ….7 % gas is consumed in CNG ,15 % to home users, 38% to the industry and 40% for generation of Electricity…..
    Only 7% is consuming CNG while 40 % consumption in a power sector. Donot you think this 40% percent is wastage of natural gas resource in a country that is rich in Coal…. A country that is blessed with best irrigation system….you don’t even need a thermal power stations to generate the electricity the hydral potiential is enough in Pakistan to fulfill the needs of ours. You would be amazed by the way people have used the flowing water to generate private power plants which supplies 60 watts to each home.
    Second thing is the generation of electricity by coal but due the fact that since no one has offered Government any commission so they are least bothered about generating from it even though Dr. Samarkand has offered no. of times that he can convert the gaseous energy of coal to electrical energy.
    38 percent of natural Gas that is utilized in the industries owned by the elites of this country is even wasting resources of gas. Government should find a better solution for that.
    I do agree that resources have always been scarce and they are depleting and yes the consumption is increasing but do you think there is no alternative. I have visit sindh almost each and every village and I have witnessed number of oil and gas fields. We are blessed with the natural resources. We are living in a country where Texas Union an American oil company steel all the Oil from interior SIndh with help of these politicians and yet no one knows about it. And still we have many more resources to discover. It is not that resources that are scarce it is the inept government that cannot manage the resources effiecntly it is kleptocracy that is prevailing all around.
    Moreover, one day or other the oil resources will exhaust so do you think that people will stop using cars …. The answer is no….all the 1st world countries started to introduce the electric cars and start promoting the alternate energy solutions because they are aware of the future outcomes. The Americans have saved oil resources of 100 years and they are not using it and depending upon arab countries by Imperialism.Recommend

  • http://afuzzyrants.wordpress.com Fuzzy

    What utter rubbish is this? Absolving the govt of its core responsibility and barricading the media for all the blame is surely not a way to argue this key issue. Your stance is void.Recommend

  • Rational

    I don’t think the author even thought about what he was going to write. If the government isn’t going to manage resources then who is? you? Prices should be the reflection of Demand and Supply, had the supply always been so irregular and short this should have reflected in the price, the price should have been higher which would’ve caused a decrease in demand (because surely the demand for CNG is not completely price inelastic), regardless this didn’t happen and the people aren’t to blame for that, authorities are.

    What you are talking about is individual responsibility of managing resources, a simpler example of the message you are trying to get through is to turn off the water while brushing your teeth. However you will have a very tough time getting that through to our population they aren’t ready for it yet because a large portion of us are quite happy with our gain regardless of the fact that it maybe someone else’s loss. Recommend

  • http://www.yahoo.com m owais azam

    The corruption is the main reason for all these problems till now our government had never tried to search for new gas reserves so who is responsible for this even they have got many engineers who can do this work locally or by venders of different countries but they had never tried our government knows only one thing and that is how to do corruption and how make black money.Recommend

  • Cynic

    Gudness! Is this a joke?? Remind me why a Govt is elected? That’s right, to make policies, and manage its reserves prudently, Ye mera ur apka kaam nahi hai. The utmost we can do is to turn off the gas when not cooking, or turning off the geyser for a part of each day (I simply cant imagine anyone driving around absentmindedly and hence wasting CNG, or machines in industries running without purpose), but what else? And even households dont knowingly waste gas since the Sui gas is a very efficient organisation which sends accurate bills, which in this age of “karki” most ppl try to lower. So what’s the option for ppl saving gas?
    Wake up dear author!Recommend

  • ali

    CNG just consumes 7% gas and we will have to import a lot of crude.Petrol is a lot expensive than CNG worldwide and we are fortunate that we have a distribution system for CNG.most counyries donot have and that the reason they donoit use CNG which is less polluting the envoronment.Actually there is a LNG/LPG lobby which is trying to defame CNG.just imagine the impact on middle class if there is no CNG.Prices of everything will shoot about 25%.so the article doesnot make sense.we still have the world 16th highest gas reserves and shale gas is over and above this.So there ia a lobby headed by iqbal Z ahmad which in colleberation with Dr asim and zardari are totally committed to promote LNG.
    The power plants are using 40% gas while we can make electrricity by coal and water but there is no kick backs in it.The writer must answer why r we using 40% gas for power generation.Recommend

  • Saad

    A very well written article that brings out a point of view that many do not even think about. However, I would say the actually point of this article is summed up in the last sentence, “Our lack of progress as a country is not just because of bad governance, it is also a result of our inability to take the blame for our mistakes and bad decisions.”
    Yes, the government shouldn’t be blamed for everything but neither should the people. It is an issue caused by the both of them. On one hand, the government should have had a better policy on how the gas would be used and they should have been more transparent about the issues that we faced when consuming CNG. It wasn’t something new that the gas we have was limited, but why does the government come to us today and say, “People of Pakistan we are having a shortage in gas.” On the other hand, the people should have thought of conserving on their usage of CNG as much as they could. Possibly by reducing travel or by being efficient while cooking food.
    Overall, like most of the problems of Pakistan, this is an issue created by the government and the citizens and not just by the government or the citizens.Recommend