When the Lights Go Out in Karachi

Tom Finnerty28 Jan, 2023 2 Min Read
Would that i'twere so simple, Mohammed.

This Associated Press story about a recent nationwide blackout in Pakistan should be added to the extremely long brief against centrally planned energy schemes. It explains that, to save money amidst the country's dire economic situation -- which has seen skyrocketing government debt and inflation as well as a freefalling currency valuation -- the Pakistani government decided to cut power throughout the nation of more than 220 million people "during low usage hours overnight to conserve fuel." But energy grids aren't designed to be flipped on and off like light switches, and so, come morning, when they attempted to "turn the systems back on, a 'fluctuation in voltage' was observed, which 'forced engineers to shut down the power grid' stations one by one."

Of course it did. And the result? According to the New York Times:

The power breakdown caused a major disruption in daily activity. Internet and mobile phone services blinkered offline in intermittent outages across the country.... “There was complete chaos in the hospital because of the power outage,” said Akram Shah, a 45-year-old textile worker who was accompanying his sick mother at the state-run Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in Karachi.... People in several cities complained that they were facing water shortages as water pumps, which run on electricity, were not working.... Many shopkeepers used small generators to keep their lights on. But some people complained that they could not withdraw money from A.T.M.s because they had stopped working.

Within 15 hours all of the major cities had power again, and many of the smaller ones as well. Extra police were dispatched to public areas to prevent an outbreak of crime, though if their was any looting it wasn't mentioned in the reports. Still, this was a serious blackout and the disruptions it caused it will further strain the economy of a nation which is already in severe economic distress. Economies require power to thrive, and as bad as things must look on the inside for the Pakistani government to have made this call, it was ultimately counter-productive and will make their bad situation worse.

Tom Finnerty writes from New England and Ontario.


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