Market News

 May 21, 2013
Pakistan to workers: Ditch the socks.

 Pakistan has told its civil servants not to wear socks as the country turns off air-conditioners amid soaring temperatures to deal with chronic power cuts.

The government has turned off all air-conditioning in its offices as the country endures blackouts of up to 20 hours a day in some places.

"There shall be no more use of air-conditioners in public offices till such time that substantial improvement in the energy situation takes place," a cabinet directive said. As part of a new dress code, moccasins or sandals must be worn without socks.

The power shortages have sparked violent protests and crippled key industries, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs in a country already beset by high unemployment, a failing economy, widespread poverty and a Taliban insurgency.

The "load-shedding" means many families cannot pump water, let alone run air-conditioners, with disastrous knock-on effects on health and domestic life.

Frustration over the power cuts contributed to the former ruling party's poor showing in the 11 May general election.

Two ministers in charge of water and power explained what could be done to end power cuts in parts of the country enduring temperatures of 40C and above -- absolutely nothing, it seems, except raise prices. Ministers Musadiq Malik and Sohail Wajahat Siddiqui "expressed their inability to overcome the crisis", the Daily Times quoted them as telling a news conference in Lahore on Monday.

"They have termed financial constraints as a major, and incompetence as a minor, hurdle in resolving the issue," the newspaper said. "Presenting the realistic picture, the ministers announced that they were going to increase the price of electricity and gas for all sectors."

They gave no details but said the problem would get worse before it got better. About two-thirds of Pakistan's energy is generated by oil and gas, and there are widespread gas shortages, with cars run on compressed natural gas queuing up for hours overnight to fill their tanks.