The Citizen Reporters Dar es Salaam. Business leaders yesterday called for the privatisation of Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) as part of a long-term solution to the chronic power crisis.However, while some were in favour of privatising the cash-strapped utility in its current form, others proposed that the firm be split into three entities responsible for generation, transmission and distribution.In a quick reaction, Tanesco managing director William Mhando warned that privatisation of the company would hurt poor people as tariffs were likely to increase sharply. It should be understood that even if we privatise Tanesco, the competition would not be like that among telecoms firms. I think we need to do more research, he said. Mr Mhando asked the private sector to work with Tanesco in addressing the problem of chronic power shortages, adding that the company was ready to cooperate fully.The call for Tanescos privatisation was made at a breakfast meeting organised by the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) to discuss ways of solving power problems. Industrial and business consultant Arnold Kilewo said Tanesco was facing problems similar to those that Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL) grappled with before its privatisation in the 1990s.I think we can privatise it like we did with TBL, which is now thriving. I dont understand why we are finding this so difficult with Tanesco, he wondered. Mr Kilewo warned against the politicisation of the power issue, saying this delayed implementation of important projects and adversely affected the business community. Mr Albert Rweyemamu, an underwriter with African Trade Insurance Agency, said privatising Tanesco as a single unit was not a good idea, and suggested that the company be split into three entities.He said the government could supervise distribution and leave other aspects of power production to independent firms. I think by so doing, things will go well and there will be a fresh impetus, he added.The government said it was finalising power reform strategies that would see significant changes in investment in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. The acting Commissioner of Energy and Petroleum Affairs in the Energy and Minerals ministry, Mr Theophillo Bwahea, said the reforms were meant to encourage the private sector to invest in power generation and distribution with a view to promoting competition. Mr Bwahea said generation and distribution would be overseen by separate entities under the proposals. Back in 1996, it was agreed that Tanesco should be privatised, but the decision was changed in 2006. No meaningful investment was made in the generation and distribution of electricity in the 10 years. Yesterdays meeting took place amid debilitating power cuts necessitated by routine maintenance at Songosongo gas fields in Kilwa District, Lindi Region. Tanesco switches power off 16 hours a day in response to a 250MW deficit on the national grid. TPSF chairperson Esther Mkwizu urged the private sector to take the power crisis in Tanzania as an opportunity to assist Tanesco by investing in generation.The demand for power is so high that the government alone cannot manage to bridge the gap. It is therefore time the private sector invested in power generation, she said. Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Energy and Minerals January Makamba said the government was still using old infrastructure inherited from the colonialists, adding that Tanzania had stopped investing in the power sector despite demand increasing steadily. Tanesco wants to expand power supply and yet it has not invested in power generation. How do we expect to serve the people? he queried.He also warned that the environment for the private sector to generate and sell power to Tanesco was not conducive enough. The Electricity Bill was passed in 2008 with the intention of enhancing the private sectors participation in the generation and distribution of electricity, but the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) said in its policy paper last year that the incentives for private investment in the power sector were too low. Reported by Alawi Masare and Bernard Lugongo; see editorial on Page 8 Source: The Citizen My take: We should not sell Tanesco but we could downsize it to be as regulator instead of power supplier. We should privatized the power supply sector to private companies invite private companies to come and invest in the sector.