WB offers help for electricity import
KATHMANDU: As talks on trade liberalisation between Pakistan and India entered a new phase of regional integration, the World Bank has offered Pakistan to carry out a feasibility study on proposed import of 500MW electricity from India to help the country overcome power load-shedding.
The technical studies on the project would be completed within 36 months, says World Bank Chief Economist for South Asia Kalpana Kochhar, while addressing selected journalists at a workshop on regional cooperation, organised by the World Bank here on Tuesday.
The chief economist elaborated further that the bank would take 18 months on conducting technical studies, including prices issue, while the remaining 18 months would be required for actualising the project.
Asked about details of the implementation of the project, she just said through a video conferencing from Washington that the transmission line would be spread on short distance. However, the chief economist said she did not have enough technical information regarding cost of transmission line on per kilometre basis.
However, her colleague Diep Nguyan-Van Houtee, Senior Operation Officer WB South Asian region, told journalists that Pakistan has formally requested the World Bank for multi-million dollar assistance for importing 500MW electricity from India.
The import of electricity was so important for Pakistan, as Ms Diep in the presentation pointed out that power load-shedding in Pakistan led to laying of jobs for more than 400,000 people. However, she said that this would be the approximate figure and could be on the higher side.
The project doesn’t seem to help the energy starved country in the immediate future, but it would help in the long term to overcome the growing demands.
However, the country has enough water resources to build demands on her own but there is no political will for that.
Pakistan would be the second country after Nepal in the region to get assistance from the World Bank on import of electricity from India.
This clearly demonstrates moving in a direction to develop energy sharing within the region.
While showing satisfaction over trade liberalisation process between India and Pakistan, the chief economist cautioned that there would be a win-win situation for both the countries. She said there would be some stumbling blocks, who will lose in the short term because of trade liberalisation. Asked whether the World Bank is involved in promoting bilateral trade between Pakistan and India, she said the Bank has not been requested for involvement at any stage in trade negotiations by both the countries.
“We are just observers”, she said, adding the bank has already done various technical studies on potential of bilateral trade between the two countries.
But at the same time, she cautioned that there must be some losers in the trade liberalisation process on both sides. To cope with such issues, she suggested establishment of a fund for compensating losers because of trade liberalisation. She said such funds exist for losers because of trade liberalisation within the European Union member countries.
Asked whether the bank is considering such funds for Pakistan and India, she said there was no consideration at the moment.
However, she said, “We are studying how and which mechanism can be offered just for our understandings at the moment.”
The chief economist said striking agreements on trade could not help to achieve the desired results until governments offer facilitation and promoting border trade.
“This is not enough to just have trade agreements. We have to work on facilitation and logistics,” she said.
The World Bank is putting a lot of emphasis on trade facilitation and transportation.
She said that Pakistan and India are considering other land-routes beyond the Wagha border point.
On the other hand, the World Bank has started technical studies to find out how much regional integration can lead to poverty alleviation in the region. However, she said according to the bank recent studies poverty is concentrated in landlocked and bordering areas of South Asia.
Asked whether there would be any possibility of reversal on trade front between India and Pakistan, she said the involvement at higher level shows that it would go forward and lead to more trade between the two countries.
Vikram K Chand, senior public sector management specialist at the World Bank in New Delhi, talked about right to information access laws. The bank, he said would provide technical assistance to countries in the region which are eager to implement the right to access to information laws.
Joyti Malhotra, an Indian journalist, Pramila Acharya Rijal of Saarc Chamer of Women entrepreneurship and Rohan Samarajeewa also spoke.