Montek not happy with power reforms

New Delhi, Nov 18 | Updated: Nov 19 2005, 05:30am hrs
Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has said that the actual losses of state electricity boards (SEBs) due to subsidies was much higher than the official estimate of Rs 28,000 crore and was attributable largely to power theft.

Speaking at the economic editors conference organised in the Capital, Mr Ahluwalia expressed his dissatisfaction with power reforms in the country. He said that he would take up the issue with state chief ministers in the annual plan meetings which began on Thursday and would ask them to speed up reforms in the power sector.

I will ask the chief ministers to get their policies right in the area of power reforms. These are important areas and they need to focus on setting these right, he said.

On the growth target for the Eleventh Plan, Mr Ahluwalia said while an official decision was yet to be taken, he believed that a 8% target was realistic.

Elaborating on the actual size of power subsidies, Mr Ahluwalia said a recent pilot study in two SEBs put the losses at double that of the government study. This implies that the amount of total subsidies would be much higher than Rs 28,000 crore, he said.

On the issue of subsidy, he said he did not have any ideological difference as long as it was affordable and targeted.

At the same time, he pointed out that the power subsidies were not only improperly targeted but were also high because of power theft passing off as subsidy. The subsidies are not only not targeted, a lot of them are plain theft, he said.

Commenting on the priorities for the Eleventh Plan, the approach paper for which is currently being prepared, Mr Ahluwalia said the main goals would be accelerating economic graowth, reducing poverty by 8-9% and enhancing performance in the social sectors, especially health and education.