Authorities on Wednesday ordered shopping malls and markets to close by 8.30 pm as part of a new energy conservation plan aimed at easing Pakistan's economic crisis, officials said. The move comes amid talks with the International Monetary Fund.
On Tuesday, Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif and Minister for Power Ghultam Dastghir said the government decided to shut establishments early as part of the new energy conservation plan approved by the Cabinet. Authorities also ordered wedding halls and restaurants to shut at 10 pm.
The government expects these measures to save energy and curtail the costs of imported oil, for which Pakistan spends USD 3 billion annually. In Pakistan, most of the electricity is generated by using imported oil.
So far, there has been a mixed reaction from representatives of shopping malls, restaurants and shop owners who want the government to reverse the decision.
Many Pakistanis do their shopping and dine at restaurants as late as midnight.
Business leaders say the new measures will have a negative impact on their establishments, which suffered during the pandemic under government-imposed lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Since 2021, the coronavirus has caused 36,000 deaths out of 1.5 million cases in Pakistan.
Pakistan is currently in talks with the IMF to soften some conditions on its USD 6 billion bailout, which the government thinks will cause a further increase in inflation.
The fund released the last crucial tranche of USD 1.1 billion to cash-strapped Pakistan in August. Since then, there has been a stalemate in talks between the two parties.
Pakistan says last summer's devastating floods caused up to 40 billion in damages to the country's economy, making it difficult for the government to comply with some of the IMF's conditions, including increases in the price of gas and electricity and new taxes.
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