Vol. 5 Num 714 Thu. June 01, 2006  
Front Page

Govt lands roadmap for power sector reform

The government yesterday presented a three-year roadmap for reforming the power sector by turning its entities into corporations through private public partnership in the sector.

The Power Division yesterday organised a workshop with business leaders, trade union representatives, and top officials of various power sector entities to get their feedback on the draft roadmap at a hotel in the capital.

Many of the discussants complained that the roadmap is all about unbundling the power sector organs while it does not offer any specific target concerning power generation in the coming years.

BD Rahmatullah, director general of the Power Cell, who presented the roadmap, said the plan deals with reforms like transforming Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) into a holding company, turning Dhaka Electricity Supply Authority (DESA) into a corporate entity, and floating shares of Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB), etc.

State Minister for Power Maj Gen Anwarul Kabir Talukdar, who just replaced Iqbal Hasan Chowdhury, chaired the workshop. He revealed that a pilot programme is being launched to inform urban consumers about next day's load shedding schedule.

Depicting the plight of the common people all over the country due to the power crisis, Abdul Maleque, a representative of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), asked the minister what the government will do to solve the intolerable power crisis instead of indulging in long term reform plans. "There are districts where power stays on only for two hours a day. Our irrigation is suffering, so are the HSC examinees. Our industrial production is facing a major setback, particularly the garment industry which is being forced to spend lakhs buying diesel to keep its generators working," he said.

The minister said he had taken time to visit a number of power stations across the country and had given necessary directions to improve the dismal power situation. He also claimed that things will improve after June 30.

Power Division Secretary ANH Akhter Hossain, who was accompanying the minister, claimed that the prevailing power crisis is mainly due to rapid economic growth, an idea which was strongly challenged by FBCCI Director Rouf Chowdhury. "We have never been short of plans, whether long term or mid term, but we could never implement those plans," Chowdhury lamented.

Chowdhury also questioned the rationale for providing 2tcf gas to a foreign investor at a much lower price compared to what the local investors have to pay for buying gas.

Pointing to the fact that setting up power plants require a huge investment, Rahmatullah in his presentation highlighted the importance of increasing private sector participation to mobilise finance.

Labour organisation representatives present at the workshop however were reluctant to accept that the solution to power crisis lies in turning power sector bodies into corporations. "We opposed it when DESA was being created and after all these years our stand has proven to be right," commented a veteran leader of Biddiyut Sramik Karmachari Union.