2 week-off,Friday petrol pump off to curb fuel,power shortage in Pak

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Islamabad, Sep 7 (UNI) Pakistan's government is expected to announce two weekly off days and closure of petrol pumps for one day in a week to reduce oil consumption and ward off worst-ever impact of highest ever current account and fiscal deficits.

''An announcement about five-day week working schedule and closure of petrol pumps for one day is expected this week,'' Dawn newspaper today quoted a senior government official as saying.

The federal cabinet in a recent meeting decided to take steps to curtail consumption in transport and power sectors, but deferred the announcement until after the presidential election.

According to the decision, Saturday and Sunday would be off days while petroleum products would not be sold on Fridays.

The oil import bill, which surged to 11.38 billion dollars or almost 30 per cent of total imports of about 40 billion dollars in 2007-08, was more than 55 per cent higher than 7.33 billion dollars a year ago, mainly because of higher international prices and increased consumption.

The Economy Monitoring Committee, headed by Finance Minister Syed Naveed Qamar, had directed the Petroleum Ministry to suggest ways of curtailing oil consumption.

Among other things, the Ministry proposed two steps - five weekdays and closing petrol pumps for a day, which could reduce oil consumption by almost 20 per cent, the Ministry said.

The last PPP government had in 1990s also introduced two weekly holidays but the move was soon reversed because it resulted in higher than usual fuel consumption and government employees started taking three off days.

It was witnessed that people moved out of the cities and towns where they worked to enjoy longer weekends. Therefore, the concept of stopping petroleum sales on Fridays is being introduced to discourage the trend.

As a result of record international prices and higher consumption, the government had to pay 4 billion dollars (Rs 270 billion) more on oil imports in 2007-08 than in the previous year.

The import of petroleum products showed a 65 per cent increase to 6.158 billion dollars from 3.73 billion dollars, while crude imports surged by 45 per cent to 5.22 billion dollars from 3.6 billion dollars in 2006-07.

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