The government’s hopes of finding the “jackpot” of oil and gas reserves they longed to find in Kekra 1 – located in Pakistani waters near Karachi – have been dashed after the drilling expedition came up empty-handed. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s bold and unsubstantiated claims about the country becoming self-sustaining for all of its fuel needs through this drilling project is a lesson for this government to not count its chickens before they hatch; the political representatives of the citizens need to do more than merely crossing their fingers and hoping that a non-existent oil field will solve all of Pakistan’s current financial problems at the drop of a hat.

For the government to rely on hopes of winning the resource lottery is not only being overly optimistic, it reflects a lack of ideas in the ruling party to steer the country away from the impending economic crisis that seems to be looming dangerously over the country. The current economic picture is bleak to be sure, but a false step at this point would result in disastrous consequences that will be felt beyond the term of this government, for generations to come.

The rupee is now market determined and losing its value daily, government spending is predicted to be lower in the new financial year and decreasing revenue receipts when the state needs more revenue streams than before does not make Pakistan’s financial outlook positive going forward. Pinning our collective hopes on the oil industry when Pakistan has been disappointed before – think back to the ‘Thar will change Pakistan’ slogan of the PPP government when the Thar coal project was slated as the answer to all of Pakistan’s energy needs starting with Benazir Bhutto laying the foundation stone in 1994 – shows this government’s inability to gain foresight from the mistakes of its predecessors.

It would of course be an amazing boon if Pakistan would strike lucky, but since it has not, it is time to move on and go about finding more grounded solutions. No matter what happens, it is clear that Pakistan’s energy sector will be the hardest hit from both the IMF measures and rapid inflation that the economy is currently experiencing.

Power prices are expected to rise as a result of the Fund’s conditions, oil imports have already gotten more expensive due to the devaluation of the rupee and now the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) is also recommending that the government increase gas rates for all consumers – up to 205 percent in certain cases. Amid all of the government’s claims about the common man being spared from bearing the brunt of the economic downturn, the reality depicts a very different picture. Does the PTI government have a realistic plan to improve things, or will we continue to grasp at straws in the hopes of a quick fix?