Shortfall forces closure of CNG stations in Punjab, Islamabad

The ongoing gas crisis in the country prompted an outcry in Punjab and Islamabad after gas shortage forced closure of CNG stations. (AFP/photo)
Updated 30 December 2018

Shortfall forces closure of CNG stations in Punjab, Islamabad

  • SNGPL to discontinue gas supply to all CNG stations from December 28, 2018, to January 10, 2019, due to maintenance issues
  • Low gas pressure in peak winter season pushes people to alternate fuel options adding to economic burden

LAHORE: The ongoing gas crisis in the country prompted an outcry in Punjab and Islamabad after gas shortage forced closure of CNG stations and domestic consumers started experiencing low gas pressure, aggravated further with a dip in temperature at the peak of winter in Pakistan.

Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL), in its notification dated December 27, 2018 announced discontinuing gas supply to all CNG stations from December 28, 2018, to January 10, 2019, due to maintenance issues. The company’s General Manager Qaiser Masood, however, assured that CNG would be provided to public transportation at specified outlets.

Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha, a central leader of the All Pakistan CNG Association, told Arab News that people attached with the business were considering agitation after the suspension of gas supply to CNG stations in Punjab and Islamabad.

He said that the suspension of gas supply to CNG stations will render thousands of employees jobless as, on average, at least 30 employees work at each CNG station. “Our business is already in tatters with only 1,300 CNG stations operational out of a total of 22,000 CNG stations in Punjab and Islamabad,” he regretted.

Approximately 0.6 to 0.7 million vehicles, out of a total of 3.7 million CNG vehicles in Pakistan, run on gaseous fuel in Punjab and Islamabad, he said. “These vehicles including buses, vans, rickshaws and taxies offer cheap transport to the public and shifting to petrol or diesel will increase fares. Hence, the impact of the economic cost will be transferred to poor people,” he said. The CNG Association is scheduled to announce the next strategy after its meeting on Monday.

The domestic consumers, on the other hand, are facing difficulties doing their daily household chores. “We will have to send our children to schools without breakfast once winter holidays end on December 31,” said Azra Parveen, a housewife living in Samanabad area of Lahore. “Either I cook food very late in the night or early morning when gas pressure improves due to low consumption,” she told Arab News. “Otherwise we have to buy cooked food from the market that increases the burden on the salaried class,” she added.

According to Pakistan Meteorological Department, a wave of dry cold weather persists across Punjab, while minimum temperature fell to -1.0°C in Islamabad on Saturday. According to the MET Department’s Regional Centre in Lahore, “Lahore and some other districts are experiencing frost with minimum temperature regularly falling below 5.0°C during night/morning hours.”

The low gas pressure has also forced people to use alternate fuel options like Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), wood and coal, which further increases the economic burden on people.

A visit to the various sale points of alternate fuels in Lahore reveals black-marketing of substitute fuel at certain points as LPG is being sold at higher rates than the official price of Rs 115/kg. Wet and dry wood is being sold at Rs 450 and Rs 550 per 40 kg and coal of wood and stone is available at Rs 400 and Rs 550 respectively. “The price of alternate fuel has increased up to 50 percent due to the chilly weather in the absence of an effective price monitoring system,” said Sohail Khan, owner of a commercial oven in the outskirts of Lahore, who uses wood and LPG depending upon affordability.

Imran Maqbool, the spokesman for Office of Deputy Commissioner, Lahore, told Arab News that Lahore district government had been taking stern action against black-marketers of LPG and alternate fuels as over 100 FIRs have been registered against violators so far.

Rasheed Lone, former Managing Director of SNGPL, told Arab News that Punjab and Islamabad face a shortfall of 700 to 800 mmcf per day as demand increases during peak winter season. “The SNGPL diverts gas supply towards domestic users from the industry during the winter season,” he said.

He informed that the company is not obliged to provide gas to the zero-rated industry in three months from December to February as per their contract with the company. However, upon government’s request, he said, the company may supply gas to power and fertilizer companies.

“Geysers continue to consume gas even when not in use, so they must be turned off,” he said, further advising people to use heaters and geysers responsibly.

Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Ghulam Sarwar Khan declined to comment despite multiple efforts. However, local media reported that Minister, in a meeting with parliamentarians and SNGPL officials, said the government is taking necessary measures to resolve the issue of low gas pressure on a priority basis to mitigate the sufferings of consumers.


Japan lower house passes US trade deal but auto tariffs still in limbo

Updated 19 November 2019

Japan lower house passes US trade deal but auto tariffs still in limbo

  • There is uncertainty over how much progress Japan can make in negotiating the elimination of US tariffs on its cars and car parts
  • Japan has estimated the initial deal will boost its economy by about 0.8 percent over the next 10-20 years

TOKYO: Japan’s lower house of parliament approved on Tuesday a limited trade deal Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed with the United States, clearing the way for tariff cuts next year on items including US farm goods and Japanese machine tools.
But there is uncertainty over how much progress Japan can make in negotiating the elimination of US tariffs on its cars and car parts, casting doubt on Abe’s assurances the deal he signed with US President Donald Trump was “win-win.”
Japan and the United States last month formally signed the limited trade deal to cut tariffs on US farm goods, Japanese machine tools and other products while staving off the threat of higher US car duties.
The government’s proposal to ratify the trade deal will next be brought to the upper house for a vote but its passage in the powerful lower house increases the chances it will come into force in January.
The deal will give Trump a success he can trumpet to voters but Abe has said it will bring as much benefit to Japan as to the United States.
Japan has estimated the initial deal will boost its economy by about 0.8 percent over the next 10-20 years, when the benefits fully kick in. It also estimated ¥212.8 billion of overall tariffs on Japan’s exports to the United States will be reduced.
But the figures were based on the assumption the United States would eliminate its tariffs on Japanese autos and auto parts — a major sticking point.
Without those tariff cuts, the reduction in overall US tariffs on Japanese goods would be a little over 10 percent of the government’s projection, according to an estimate by Japan’s Asahi newspaper and Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting.
After the deal is ratified, Japan and the United States have four months to consult on further talks, and Trump has said he wants more trade talks with Japan after the initial deal.
But Japanese government sources familiar with the talks say the momentum to negotiate a deeper deal appears to have waned for now with Washington preoccupied with talks with Beijing.
“It’s unclear whether Washington seriously wants to continue trade talks,” one of the sources said.
“The question is how much time the United States can allocate for talks with Japan, even if we start negotiations. There’s limited time to conclude talks before the presidential elections.”
Japan and the United States already appear to have different interpretations of what was agreed on car tariffs.
Japan has said it has received US assurance that it would scrap tariffs on Japanese cars and car parts, and that the only remaining issue was the timing.
But Washington has not confirmed that.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said cars were not included in the agreement, and that it was only Japan’s ambition to discuss car tariffs in the future.
A US document only said customs duties on autos and auto parts “will be subject to further negotiations with respect to the elimination of customs duties.”
“The deal was left vague on the issue of tariff cuts on Japanese auto and auto parts. Otherwise, we couldn’t have reached the agreement,” another source said.
There is also uncertainty on whether Trump will drop threats to impose steep tariffs on Japanese car imports under “Section 232” that gives him authority to do so on national security grounds.
Abe said he had got an assurance from Trump that he would not do that, though analysts say the president could always change his mind, or at least keep Japan guessing.
Opposition parties have attacked Abe for a deal they say is unfair. Critics say Trump could drag his feet on further negotiations unless he is sure he can win more concessions.
“There’s a chance Trump will put pressure on Japan on trade to appeal to his voters,” said Junichi Sugawara, senior research officer at Mizuho Research Institute. “There’s a possibility he could renew his threat over auto tariffs.”