THE ongoing power crisis is set to reach an unmanageable proportion in the next summer. That is what was projected by a person none other than the minister of state for power the other day. The power division, apparently, has come out of a deep slumber and initiated a flurry of activities to address the problem. But many tend to consider the latest government initiative aimed at placating the voters with general elections remaining about less than a year away. However, two reports published in this daily Monday only points to the government's desperation in the face of a record power deficit.
According to one report, the government has decided to invite bids next week for purchasing 300 megawatt of power from the barge-mounted independent power producers (IPPs). The other report was about involvement of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an affiliate of the World Bank (WB), in the tendering process of some of the proposed power projects of the government. The issues highlighted in the reports are very much interlinked: the decision to buy power from new barge mounted plants as a stopgap arrangement is the outcome of lack of transparency in the process of bidding for a number of power projects. Had these power projects been completed through open bidding system in time, the government would not have faced a severe power shortage that has compelled it to buy power from new barge-mounted power plants at a higher tariff.
At a meeting with the minister of state of power, the WB country director Sunday last did not hide her frustration while holding the government responsible for the present power crisis. She said lack of transparency has delayed the implementation of small power projects as well as 450 MW Sirajganj power plants, leading to the huge deficit in power. The minister had no word to protest. Rather, he accepted the WB proposal to involve the IFC in the tendering processing for the sake of transparency. A good move on the part of the government about a couple of years back has virtually ended up in a national scandal because of undue political interference. The government decided to allow private parties to set up small power plants having generation capacity ranging between 10MW and 30 MW at 10 to 12 locations across the country. There was huge response from the private sector. But things turned sour when influential quarters tried to favour a few through unsolicited tendering. Following media criticism, the WB intervened and requested the government to stop the tendering process. The process is expected to be initiated again under the close scrutiny of the IFC.
If the government completes the bidding process expeditiously maintaining full transparency, the successful bidders are unlikely to take too long a time to set up of small power plants. The power crisis is expected to ease partially as and when at least 600 MW will be added to the national grid through the purchase of 300 MW from the new barge-mounted plants and another 300 MW from the proposed private small power plants. But all these initiatives are unlikely to be implemented before next summer to rid the people of a terrible power crisis. If some disgruntled people decide to vote against the ruling alliance in the coming general elections just because of power situation, the alliance would have to blame itself for this. Lack of seriousness and too many pockets of decision-making have made things difficult for the incumbent government to improve the power situation. However, this is nothing unique for the power sector. Most other sectors do also have similar experience.