The federal and provincial governments have decided to close markets by 8pm across the country as part of the efforts to save energy, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Tuesday.
The minister announced this during a press conference in Islamabad after an NEC meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and approved the estimated budget figures.
Ahsan Iqbal said issues pertaining to energy and infrastructure were discussed during the meeting, adding that “energy is become a huge challenge for Pakistan due to global prices”.
“Saudi Arabia has cut down oil production by one million barrels, which poses a risk of oil prices rising to $100 per barrel,” he said, highlighting that if the country continued to rely on fossil fuel and oil for its energy needs, “our economy will remain vulnerable”.
Minister recalled that the federal cabinet had vowed to enforce decisions under a National Energy Conservation Plan in January this year. “But there was no representation of provinces in that meeting. So we took it up again in the NEC, where provincial government representatives were also present.
“And now we hope that provincial governments will ensure the implementation of the energy conservation package that has been approved today.”
The energy conservation plan discussed in the federal cabinet in January proposed closure of markets at 8:30pm and wedding halls at 10pm, the use of efficient electronic appliances, and a 40 per cent reduction in power consumption in government offices.
It also recommended the imposition of additional duties on inefficient electric fans, use of light-emitting diode LED bulbs, the introduction of electric bikes and phasing out motorcycles that run on petrol and illuminating street lights only at 50 per cent capacity.
Ahsan Iqbal said today that steps for energy conservation recommended under this plan, such as the closure of shops and commercial centres by 8pm, switching to LED lights and upgrading geysers to make them more energy efficient, could help the country save up to $1 billion annually.
Speaking specifically about the early closure of shops, Iqbal said even rich nations in Europe and the US could not “afford the luxury of keeping commercial areas open till 10pm or 11pm”.
“No [country] has an irresponsible lifestyle as us, keeping shops open till 1am or 2am.”
The minister also said that another decision taken regarding the energy sector was to promote green energy.
“Projects of solar, wind and hydel energy will be promoted and we will not introduce any new project based on imported fuel,” he said.
Soon after Iqbal’s press conference, All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran (APAT), the body representing the trader community of the country, opposed the government’s move.
“The government should withdraw the decision to close shops by 8pm,” APAT President Ajmal Baloch said in a statement, adding that shops would not be closed at 8pm this summer.
He stressed that the energy minister should hold talks with traders on the matter.