LAHORE - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday disclosed talks were in progress with China for the purchase of another three nuclear power plants, but he did not say anything about their capacity, the cost and the schedule of their completion.

Inaugurating a grand auto show here on Thursday, he enlisted the steps his government was taking to overcome the energy crisis, end joblessness, expand motorways and save hundreds of billions of rupees the country is unjustifiably spending to keep the major loss-making projects afloat.

Pakistan has been facing serious energy crisis for several years and the menace of load shedding is hitting the industrial sector as well as domestic consumers even after payment of about Rs 500 billion in circular debt last year. The debt has again exceeded Rs 200 billion. The average demand-supply gap at present stands at 5,000MW and the situation will worsen during the summer which is about to start.

The prime minister said Pakistan’s total power generation capacity attained during the past 65 years stood at 17,000MW. To meet all existing and future requirements, he said, the capacity would be doubled during the five-year term of the present government.

The auto show was organised by Pakistan Association of Automative Parts and Accessories Manufacturers (PAAPAM). A total of 150 local and international exhibitors and global buyers are taking part in the three-day show at the Expo Centre, Johar Town.Giving a brief account of the energy projects, the premier said 660MW Port Qasim and 2,200MW civil nuclear plant projects had been launched in Karachi while work had also been started on Diamir-Bhasha Dam and Basu Dam. He said the fourth expansion plan of Tarbela Dam had also been started to generate 1,410MW electricity.

Nawaz Sharif told the show participants that he planned to extend the motorway to Karachi and work on the new segment would be started during the current calendar year. The design of the Lahore-Karachi motorway would be identical to the existing Lahore-Islamabad section. According to the prime minister, a motorway needs re-carpeting after about a decade. The process was, therefore, due for the Lahore-Islamabad segment, he said, adding it would be started during the current year and completed in about 18 months at a cost ranging between Rs 30 billion and Rs 40 billion.

Sharif said the Lahore-Karachi railway track would be upgraded to improve the performance of the facility.

Criticising the nationalisation policy of the then PPP government, the prime minister said it had ruined the economy. Loot and plunder, mismanagement and embezzlements had started immediately with the launch of the nationalisation policy. However, he said, he was determined to set the situation right.

The government, it may be recalled, has already started a policy of privatisation and a schedule has been prepared for the purpose. The opposition parties are averse to the idea as it would render a large number of people jobless. But the government is determined to go ahead at all costs.

The prime minister also stressed the need to increase exports. For this purpose, he directed the commerce minister to take necessary steps. He said he was aware of the security situation and was doing his best to restore peace to the country.

Punjab Governor Ch Sarwar, Commerce Minister Engr Khurram Dastgir, Minister for Industries Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Privatisation Board Chairman Muhammad Zubair, the Board of Investment chairman and eminent industrialists were also present on the occasion.

APP adds: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Thursday said that Pakistan’s progress was linked with a thriving industry and the government was exploring new vistas to provide avenues to the business community for economic progress.

Addressing the inaugural session of the Pakistan Auto Show at Expo Centre here, he said the world exports spread over 216 countries, but 76 percent of Pakistan’s exports were confined to only 20 countries of the world, stressing the need to enhance this number.

The prime minister said the award of GSP+ status by the European Union (EU) was an achievement of the PML-N government, adding the facility would provide access to 90 per cent of the Pakistani products to the EU market at zero-tariff. Nawaz said the government’s task was to provide an environment conducive to the businesses to flourish. He said: “If industry thrives, the whole country prospers.”

He said the government had inherited a shattered economy from the previous regime and every institution was on the decline. The PML-N government had faced the challenges with conviction and did not lose heart at any moment, he remarked.

Nawaz Sharif said the government had finalised seven-year projects worth $32.690 billion with China, which would attract an annual foreign investment of $4 billion.

Nawaz Sharif asked the auto show management to follow Geneva and other models for effective auto shows and maintain the same standards.