The textile sector associations threatened a massive protest campaign and sit-ins from Nov 15 if the proposed plan to suspend gas supply to industry in Punjab was not reversed soon. It seems they got what they asked for with the government announcing that they will be exempt from power and gas cuts. The rest of us however seem to be in for a cold winter. The support to the textile industry will come at the cost of other consumers – commercial units, agricultural sector and domestic users, who will continue to experience outages, and of course rising prices. Yet, at least someone is getting gas right? Our industry needs this push. Textile is not inefficient because of its own vices, but because of the power crisis being faced in the manufacturing sector.

In most countries, it is industries that receive subsidised energy and governments lower costs for them. Consumers on the other hand pay in full, as they are consumers and their consumption amounts to no economic accumulation. In Pakistan, the situation has been the opposite. Governments over the last thirty years have kept subsides going to the domestic consumer. The IMF has been ordering us over the past decade to remove subsidies and increases taxes, but economic reform has political consequences. It is the job of policy makers to make sure that when there’s no gas in homes, at least there is employment available for the household. If energy prices are rising, there has to be enough successful economic activity that wages can also rise.

The question remains, is the textile sector getting special treatment? Should other important sectors like agriculture not be given the same concessions? Has anyone calculated the loss to other industries? And is this sustainable? We live in a situation where the provision of electricity and gas now has to be carefully managed and distributed. We will continue to be even more strapped for resources in the future. We have to better manage what is left of your water and gas and get used to driving on almost empty. After all, economics is the science of scarcity.