The multi-billion-dollar Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) Pipeline project is facing yet another issue before it actually starts benefitting the economy. For two stakeholders, India and Pakistan, the gas prices being offered are 5 to 10 percent higher than the rate at which Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is imported from Qatar and other countries. The entire idea behind the project was to supply gas at nominal rates with the help of Turkmenistan. If the project ends up being a financial liability due to the charges being offered, there are chances that the project will not materialise anytime soon. Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Petroleum Nadeem Babar was the first person to point out this problem at the meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet.
Both countries have separately made requests to Turkmenistan to reconsider the prices being offered to them. On Wednesday, Pakistan formally constituted a five-member price negotiation committee (PNC) to begin talks with Turkmenistan for a price cut. Turkmenistan has also agreed to reconsider the price being offered. Meetings with the relevant stakeholders will take place next month because, without this regulation, the project will not see completion. This again is one of the flaws in how megaprojects are signed up. The price points needed to be discussed in order to analyse their feasibility. Whatever project any government undertakes, the decision making should be done in a manner that is holistic and takes into account every detail that might impact the country’s economy, its society, and its policies.
Collective diplomatic efforts are required on part of India and Pakistan in order to convince Turkmenistan to lower their prices. A team is being sent to Pakistan next month to address this issue. Pakistan needs to have ample data to show that we cannot afford piped gas being more expensive than the LNG we ship in. The feasibility of the project now depends on Turkmenistan, whereas, for Pakistan, there needs to be a team dedicated to understanding mega projects in the country. This will help avoid such mistakes in the future and all relevant aspects of the projects will be discussed before the project materialises in order to ensure the convenience of all the parties involved. Governments require help from experts in dealing with projects. A team dedicated to this will only make the government’s job easier.