Pakistan ministers hold news conference to say can't end power blackouts

ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) - Two Pakistani ministers in charge of water and power explained what can be done to end power cuts of up to 20 hours a day in parts of the country enduring temperatures of 40 deg Cel and above - absolutely nothing, it seems, except raise prices.

The power shortages have sparked violent protests and crippled key industries, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs in a country already beset by high unemployment, a failing economy, widespread poverty and a Taleban insurgency.

The "load-shedding" means many families cannot pump water, let alone run air-conditioners, with a disastrous knock-on effect on health and domestic life.

Ministers Musadiq Malik and Sohail Wajahat Siddiqui "expressed their inability to overcome the crisis", the Daily Times quoted them as telling a news conference in Lahore, where the temperature was 40 deg Cel on Monday.

"They have termed financial constraints as a major, and incompetence as a minor, hurdle in resolving the issue," the newspaper said.

"Presenting the realistic picture, the ministers announced that they were going to increase the price of electricity and gas for all sectors." They gave no details but said the problem would get worse before it gets better.

About two-thirds of Pakistan's energy is generated by oil and gas and there are widespread gas shortages, with cars run by compressed natural gas (CNG), queuing up for hours overnight to fill their tanks.