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31st-Aug-2015

New energy pricing is highly exploitative

By Editorial Desk

The government decision to increase gas and electricity prices has not been taken in a transparent way through a consultative process with stakeholders to justify the price hike. Its claim that the new rates have been fixed to reduce losses at the distribution level to users is partly correct but why the authorities are not reducing dependence on buying electricity at high cost from private producers remained overshadowed in mystery. 
It is true that the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) held some name shake hearing sessions with some stakeholders, but the decision showed the hearings have no reflection on the new rates. Rather a high-level government committee decided on the new rates showing that the ERC as such has not taken the decision.
What is at stake is that people have rejected the new rates as evident from massive protests and demonstrations by political parties and rights groups over the past two days. Some have threatened hartal and
streets agitation while urging the government to withdraw the new rates.
Many fear that the price hike would lead to escalation of production cost and inflation. Transport fares at all levels would increase and the overall situation would affect people's purchasing power and also the cost of exports. The galloping rise in price of cooking gas at domestic level will affect every household where fixed income people struggle in their daily life to make a living with limited resources. It will affect passengers of CNG-run autorickshaws and buses and lead to a rise in petrol and diesel prices. That is what the State Minister for Energy and Power already hinted on the day the decision for gas and electricity price hike was announced.
What appears is that such actions of the government are going to affect the common people not only in the energy sector but also in almost all sectors of the economy and social life. Many wonder why the government can't do things to help the common people.
In fact, the idea of a welfare society is fast disappearing forcing the people to live under an ever growing hardship unleashed by a system of ruthless money grabbing. The monopolistic nature of the state is becoming too much exploitative in which the price of almost every state administered utility is soaring intermittently. The prices of every item has gone up and the government does not worry.
Fuel price has declined to US$ 40 per barrel now from $120 and there is hardly any justification to raise electricity prices claiming that electricity produced by fuel fired power plants are still expensive. The Petrobangla reportedly earned over Tk 20 thousand crore in profits during the past five years to negate any reason for soaring rise in gas price as well.
In fact, the huge budgetary deficit is forcing the government to look for every avenue of revenue collection to foot the private sector power bills and grease its highly corrupt and inefficient government machinery. The other way available is to reduce corruption and waste in the government. But since we have a government; which is not properly elected but need more funds to hold grip on power, its revenue system is becoming oppressive at every step.
We hold the view that the government cannot be so unmindful of the financial hardship the general public is enduring from the mismanagement of the country's economy. It will be most unreasonable to ask the people to pay more when the government's energy sector is making high profit.