Unjust distribution of energy resources

By Manzoor Chandio
March 9, 2009
ACCORDING to the latest figures, Sindh contributes 71 per cent of the gas and 56 per cent of oil produced in the country.
Its 15 districts producing oil and gas are: Qambar-Shahdadkot, Hyderabad, Khairpur, Dadu, Badin, Thatta, Tando Allahyar, Tando Mohammed Khan, Jamshoro, Ghotki, Matiari, Sanghar, Kashmore, Jacobabad and Shikarpur.
The 2008 energy year book says Pakistan’s annual gas production is 1,454,194 million cubic feet of which Sindh produces 1,033,110 mcf (71 per cent), Balochistan 319,578 mcf (22 per cent), Punjab 71,800 mcf (5 per cent) and the NWFP 29,706 mcf (2 per cent).
Pakistan’s daily production of crude oil is 70,145 barrel of which Sindh produces 39,370 (56 per cent), Punjab 17,856 (26 per cent) and the NWFP 12,847 (18 per cent).
Oil and gas companies operating in Sindh, including the federally-run Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) and Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL), control the province’s underground wealth.
The Sindh government has no say in the exploitation of its oil and gas reserves and a majority of the people in this resource-rich province remain in perpetual state of financial distress and poverty.
Gas pipelines pass through thousands of villages whose residents are denied gas connections. Even low paid jobs are denied to locals.
The people in Sindh indeed, are striving to meet their basic human needs like shelter, food, clothing, education and medical treatment-- not with much success.
"The first right of local people over their gas and oil resources needs to be recognised, like in other countries. They should be given jobs and gas connections,” says Barrister Zamir Ghumro, adding that there is no provision for federal ministry of petroleum at the centre under the Article 154 of the Constitution.
Oil and gas come under the authority of Council of Common Interests which is a permanent body like the National Assembly and the Senate but it is not allowed to function, he said.
Under the Article 157 of the Constitution, the government of a province can generate and distribute electricity, levy tax on consumption of electricity within the province, construct power houses and grid stations and lay transmission lines and determine the tariff for distribution of electricity.
Zamir Ghumro suggested that Sindh should take over its gas, oil and coal reserves and start generation of electricity.
He said that petroleum concession agreements should be revised and these should be between provinces and gas and oil companies, tapping the underground resources.
If Sindh has control over its natural resources, it would not need subventions/grants from the centre. It is not logical that a revenue-rich region should suffer under abject poverty.
“The people of Sindh should be given oil and gas dividend as is done in the US; every Alaskan receives oil and gas dividend since 1982,” says Sindh Democratic Forum Secretary Zulfiqar Halepoto.
Under the Alaska Permanent Fund set up in 1976 dividend is derived from the state’s oil royalty investment programme and distributed each year to all men, women and children.
Recently it was distributed at the rate of $3,269 per individual.
“The government should establish a Sindh Permanent Fund on the pattern of the Alaska Permanent Fund and the province’s oil and gas royalty, production bonus and amount earmarked for corporate social responsibility (CSR) should be deposited in the fund instead of being retained by the Centre,” asserts Mr Halepoto.
Besides, residents of Sindh must be given rebate on oil, gas and coal, he added.
So far, Alaskans have got $15.2 billion pocket money since the dividend programme began.
“At present, Sindh’s production bonus given by foreign oil and gas companies is valued at Rs2.39 billion. The amount is deposited with the President of Pakistan but has not been released to Sindh since 1996. The production bonus should be released to oil and gas producing districts,” say Sikandar Brohi and Ishak Soomro of the Participatory Development Initiatives.
Sindh’s two districts–Qambar-Shahdadkot and Hyderabad—do not get production bonus from the centre-run companies, OGDCL and PPL.
Nationalists are convinced that the federation should not be allowed to exploit Sindh’s underground resources i.e, oil, gas and coal deposits.
“Sindh receives direct transfers on account of excise duty on gas and royalty under Article 161 of the Constitution from the Centre. It does not receive production bonus. Sindh badly needs a fund with separate account on the basis of money received from the federal government on account of production bonus,” says Barrister Ghumro.
“Under Article 158 of the 1973 Constitution, the province from where gas is found, has precedence over its use. Its requirements have priority over other provinces. Royalty and excise duty on gas is used in the budget of the province. So, it can establish fund on the basis of production bonus by opening a separate account,” he said.
Sindh should have an effective representation on the boards of Pakistan Petroleum Limited and Oil and Gas Development Company Limited.
To protect its interests, the Sindh government should form its own companies for tapping the mineral resources of the province. Besides, Sindh’s lawmakers need to draft a piece of legislation to regulate production of oil, gas and coal for the benefit of the people of the province.

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