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Friday, June 21, 2024

Gas price hike angers consumer rights groups

Staff Reporter

Consumer rights groups have expressed disappointments with the energy regulator’s latest move to raise the average gas price by 22.78 per cent amid economic hardships.

“We have been frustrated with the BERC decision when the people are struggling to survive in high inflation of commodity price”, said Prof M Shamsul Alam, advisor of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB).

“Rather, the energy regulator mostly considered the profits of the state-owned utility companies and their public shareholders”, he told UNB. The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) on Sunday announced the gas price hike for retail consumers in the country with back effect from June 1.

As per the announcement, the average gas price was raised to Tk 11.91 per cubic metre from the existing Tk 9.70 per cubic metre (CM).

As per the new tariff, the household consumers using single burner will now pay Tk Tk 990 (7.03 per cent rise), up from Tk 925 a month, while the double-burner users need to pay Tk 1080 (10.77 per cent rise), up from Tk 975.

The household consumers will bear the brunt of the hike as they have to pay Tk 18 per Cubic metre (42.86 per cent rise), up from existing Tk 12.60 per cubic metre (CM).

The CAB earlier placed an alternative proposal to the government to keep the tariff unchanged and provide a subsidy of Tk 6489 crore to the energy and power sector.

It recommended major reforms in energy and power sector aimed at stopping pilferage, malpractice, irregularities, corruption and misuse of gas and electricity. The CAB said that only a Tk 2,400 is required for energy sector while Tk 5089 crore is for power sector to keep the current price unchanged.

The CAB’s alternative proposal also includes enhancing local gas production and shutting down costly rental, quick rental and inefficient power plants.

“Our alternative proposals were not taken into cognizance in making the decision”, said the Cab advisor.

Shamsul Alam said the government normally withdraws taxes and duties on any product when its price goes up on international markets.

“But in case of petroleum or gas import, the government does not prefer such steps”, he noted.

Mohiuddin Ahmed, convener of the Bangladesh Citizen Society, said that the gas price hike is completely illogical and made in a syndicated way.

During the public hearing the state-run companies failed to place any convincing evidence in support of raising gas prices, he said.

Despite that the energy regulator raised the gas price instead of taking action against corruption and pilferage in the energy sector, he regretted.

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