Power shortage forcing early closure of Pakistan malls, markets

ISLAMABAD, 4 Jan 2023:

Pakistan yesterday ordered all markets and shopping malls to close earlier than usual to preserve electricity as the country faces a severe power shortage.

The move is part of the government’s new energy conservation plan for a country under a deepening economic disaster.

Defence minister Khawaja Asif told reporters the Cabinet-approved new measure would be enforced at once across the country.

The minister said restaurants, hotels, and markets would close down by 8:30pm and wedding halls by 10pm.

“With this initiative, which has been taken in consultation with trade bodies, there will be a saving of around 62 billion Pakistani rupees (US$273.4 million).”

The Cabinet got into a huddle, with the energy-saving plan topping the agenda.

According to estimates, Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserve levels barely cover a month’s worth of imports, most of which are energy purchases.

The crisis comes as funds expected under an International Monetary Fund programme have been delayed.

The minister said prime minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered all government departments to reduce electricity consumption by 30%.

However, trade bodies did not receive the order well. The All Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajiran said it would not comply with the new closure timings.

The minister said the country was facing an energy crisis as people continued to use inefficient electrical appliances, including fans and bulbs.

“Inefficient fans will not be manufactured in Pakistani factories from 1 July 2023,” the minister declared.

From Feb 1, incandescent bulbs will not be allowed and duty will be imposed on their import, he said.

Asif said the government would promote electric motorcycles this year.

“Pakistan is using fuel worth US$3 billion annually. These e-bikes will be slightly expensive but we will provide financing and the costs will hopefully be covered within a year.”