US to help Pakistan with energy crisis

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) - August 19, 2009 Richard Holbrooke said resolving the energy shortfall and improving the country's economy was vital to ensuring long-term stability. He did not mention any specific projects, but said a group of U.S. energy experts and engineers were due to arrive in the country on Thursday to begin technical planning for American assistance.

Each day, millions of Pakistanis suffer prolonged power cuts because demand for electricity far outstrips supply. The unstable power supply has damaged local industry, with factories unable to keep up production levels, and has sometimes triggered riots.

"Improving the security situation and nurturing the business environment go hand-in-hand," Holbrooke told a news conference in the southern port city of Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital.

Holbrooke also announced that the U.S. would begin issuing 100 business visas each week in Karachi as of next month to ease access to the U.S. market.

"Addressing a plague of blackouts and opening access to new markets are vital early components in this effort for long-term economic stability. The energy shortfall represents a clear crisis for Pakistan," he said.

The Pakistani government said Wednesday that the energy crisis had improved in recent days, with shorter power cuts in urban and rural areas. It said that the daily shortfall last week stood at about 3,500 megawatts, but that the figure fell to 601 megawatts on Wednesday.

Holbrooke stressed that the power problems would take time to resolve.

"The energy crisis is a complex problem that has developed over many years and does not lend itself to quick fixes," he said.

However, the envoy stressed that Pakistan itself would have to take the lead in resolving the issue.

"Let me emphasize that the United States does not have a magic solution to Pakistan's energy problems," he said. "We cannot do it for Pakistan. Pakistani leadership in the public, private and international sectors is essential here."

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