MINISTER ASIF: I’ll just remark --
SECRETARY KERRY: You’re the boss.
MINISTER ASIF: -- say a few words and then you can. (Inaudible). Secretary Kerry, ladies and gentlemen, it’s my privilege and honor that I’m welcoming Secretary Kerry at this great station, at this facility. And I take this opportunity to express my gratitude also for this project of local data improvement, which has been almost now 90 percent complete, and it has been done over – all over Pakistan on all the DISCOs. This has enabled us to improve efficiency, to have accurate figures, to estimate what is being generated and distributed in different areas of distribution companies. And this has helped us a lot in developing our policy to take care of the energy crisis in Pakistan.
Let me emphasize on the crisis we are facing these days, for the last – not only these days, for the last three or four years now, four or five years. This is the biggest crisis Pakistan has – Pakistan’s economy has faced in the last 65 years. And by an estimate, this is costing us about a thousand billion rupees per year. It is a bigger menace to our economy, to our existence, than the war on terror. Terrorism is a very big problem. It’s not only Pakistan’s problem; it’s Pakistan – it’s a problem for the rest of the world also. It’s an international problem. It’s a threat to the international community.
But this problem of energy, the shortage of energy in Pakistan, has crippled our economy in the last 10 years. Millions of people have gone – they are unemployed, industries have closed, and almost – there’s a gap. We have improved our situation, the generation situation in the last week or 10 days with an effort of – which included liquidating the debt, to settle a debt of almost 500 billion rupees during June and July, which has improved our situation. The hydel power is better because of the rains, and the dams are full. So we are generating, for the first time in our history, more than 16,000 megawatts. So that has alleviated a bit of our agony, but the problem still remains there, and it will take few years to take care of this problem.
Secretary Kerry, I just wanted to give you the background. And in this backdrop, this – the help which USAID has given us is very valuable, and we really appreciate it. It’s very valuable not only in providing these smart meters in this LDI project. Your assistance, U.S. assistance, is very valuable in our hydel power projects also, and improving the conditions in our transmission system also. So U.S. is providing very valuable assistance in this sector, and we – they are helping us in controlling our – this problem, the problem of load shedding, the problem of outages. But it’s a long process, will take few years before we get – really come to grips with this whole situation.
I’ll again thank you and your delegation, and the Excellency, the Ambassador, and everybody present over here. I’ll hand over the podium to you now. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Minister. Usually when I hear that sound, I thought my mail was being delivered. Takes me back a few years. (Laughter.) Or something else.
Minister Asif, thank you very, very much. A great privilege to be here with you. I’m very grateful to you and the government for helping us to set up this event so we should – we could highlight the importance of energy to the economic future of Pakistan. And so I’m delighted to come to the Zero Point substation here, and I’ve just been inside where I’ve been able to see the combined work that you’ve undertaken and also the help that USAID is providing by helping to bring some technology to the table which assists in the effort to try to reduce the waste, the loss, and to better allocate the provision of power so that there aren’t outages or losses at one particular moment and it becomes a far more predictable process.
I wanted to come here today to talk about this energy plant particularly, and the smart meters in this program, number one, to underscore the vital relationship between the United States and Pakistan that is many more things than what people normally read about or hear about.
Secondly, I want to underscore the importance of energy to Pakistan’s economic future. There’s so much more that we need to do beyond the discussions of security and Afghanistan and other kinds of things that are critical to the people of Pakistan. And one of the core goals of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, which we passed in the Congress which provided over $7 billion of aid – I think 3.5 billion of it has already been delivered to Pakistan – is to help with projects like this so that we can provide the electricity that is vital to the future development of Pakistan.
One of the greatest single restraints, one of the greatest pullbacks against growth, is the lack of energy. If a company is going to situate itself somewhere and open its manufacturing doors, it needs to have energy. If a school is going to open, it needs to have energy. To build homes, people need to have energy. And so how much we provide energy, how fast is going to be critical to the feelings of people in Pakistan that progress is being made in terms of their economic future.
The Islamabad Electric Supply Company is now helping to guarantee that the power that is generated from infrastructure projects is actually going to reach people reliably and efficiently. It’s an example of smart power through smart metering, and it achieves – one little meter actually achieves a goal that’s much bigger than all of those parts. It allows the Minister and his people to be able to guarantee that they understand what the demand level is, they understand what’s being provided, they also understand better where it’s going in the transmission line, and whether it’s being lost, or even, in some cases, stolen during the course of that transmission.
I’m proud to say that USAID-funded energy projects have added more than 1,200 megawatts of power to the national grid of Pakistan. That’s enough to benefit more than several million households. Now, obviously, we’re going to have to increase a lot more power than that, and a lasting solution is actually going to require changing the current subsidies that exist and finding a way to improve the efficiency of power generation and to be able to make certain that we have a system that works, where bills are being collected, and the system actually pays for itself. That’s how you get a modern and effective and efficient system, and it’ll improve the economy of Pakistan in doing it.
So we’re very eager to continue to work with our friends here at the Islamabad Electric Supply Company. I think this is a terrific story that the people of Pakistan can be proud of, and I will take back with me to the United States the urgency of all of us working together to try to increase the number of these projects so that they can rapidly increase the amount of electricity that is being reached by the people of Pakistan. The minute there is increased power, there will be more jobs, more economic opportunity, Pakistan will grow faster, and people will feel the difference. That’s something worth working for, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)
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