Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) raised the prices of gas on the day when the budget for 2019-20 fiscal was passed. Was it coincident or preplanned? BERC probably tested the patience of the people by raising gas price at a time when the burden of tax was imposed. It can be said that the decision they took after the mass hearing is not pro-people.

BERC has hiked the gas prices by 32.8 per cent. It declared to increase the gas price in two phases in February of 2017. The gas prices of one phase were made effective due to the court order. As per the law of the organisation, the price of gas cannot be increased more than once in six months. BERC violated its own law. According to the organization, of the total gas, 41 per cent will be used in generating electricity, 16.8 per cent in industry, 16.45 per cent for captive power plant, 14 per cent in household, 5.7 per cent in producing fertilizer and 4 per cent in the CNG. Besides, gas is used in tea garden, hotel, restaurant, small and cottage industries.

BERC increased the prices of gas saying expenditure for LNG import, transmission and distribution. Questions must be raised whether their reasons are valid or not. People have already expressed anger over the decision. According to economists and energy experts, not only the general consumers but also the economy will seriously be affected due to hike of the gas prices. Gas-based industries have to face challenge in competitive market.

The way the indirect tax has been increased the low and limited income people will be in trouble. As per the announcement of the finance minister in the budget, the direct tax was not raised. Low income group will be affected further due to increasing prices of gas. The government could save more by tackling corruption and wastage than that of the revenues it will earn from the hike of gas price.

When Bangladesh raised the prices of gas, neighbouring country India reduced the gas price. India reduced gas price to Tk 637 from Tk 737.50. Many of our industries have to compete with India. So it was necessary to see whether there was any alternative.

BERC did not raise the prices of gas used in small and cottage industries. It deserves thanks. BERC could launch prepaid instead of increasing gas price to households. Both wastage and pressure would be reduced. Many alleged that the government is raising gas price to facilitate LNG importers. This allegation needs to be checked. The matter of concern is that the government is depending more on the imported gas. The government is not taking effective steps to explore probable gas fields in the sea. On the contrary, the government is raising gas price as an easy task to the solution. Such steps may be damaging for the country in the long run.