Decision taken to close markets, commercial centres by 8pm from July 1: Ahsan Iqbal
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Decision taken to close markets, commercial centres by 8pm from July 1: Ahsan Iqbal

Jun 06, 2023

Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV

Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Tuesday that it was agreed during a National Economic Council (NEC) to close markets and commercial centres by 8pm from July 1 to conserve energy.

"The provinces have agreed to implement this decision from July 1," he said while speaking to reporters after concluding a press conference in Islamabad where he shared decisions taken during the meeting of the NEC — the country's highest forum of the federation on economic decision-making —earlier today.

The NEC meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and approved estimated budget figures.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), provincial governments were urged at the meeting to implement the energy conservation plan that had already been approved by the federal cabinet.

The plan was taken up at a cabinet meeting in January, where it was proposed to close markets at 8:30pm and wedding halls at 10pm, use efficient electronic appliances and reduce power consumption in government offices by 40 per cent.

Measures such as the imposition of additional duties on inefficient electric fans, use of light-emitting diode LED bulbs, the introduction of electric bikes, phasing out motorcycles that run on petrol and illuminating street lights only at 50 per cent capacity were also recommended under the plan

The PMO statement said provincial representatives were briefed on the National Energy Conservation Plan today and participants of the NEC meeting were informed that implementing the plan would help reduce the country's fuel import bill by over 10-15pc or Rs1bn in a short period.

"The provincial governments were asked to play their role in the implementation of different aspects of the National Energy Conservation Plan and contribute to fulfilling this national duty," the statement read.

During his press conference, Iqbal said the energy conservation plan now also had the NEC's approval.

Iqbal said issues pertaining to energy and infrastructure were discussed during the NEC 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".

To counter this, he said, one of the measures that the government wanted to implement energy conservation measures.

Iqbal recalled that the federal cabinet had earlier approved the energy conservation plan, "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".

He separately explained to that the NEC's approval for the plan was needed as the federal government "cannot implement decisions in provinces".

"And now we hope that provincial governments will ensure the implementation of the energy conservation package that has been approved today," Iqbal said while speaking to the media in Islamabad.

The minister said 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.

On 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.

Additional reporting by Hasaan Ali Khan

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