The recent hike in oil prices from 42 to 51 per cent has pushed the economy at risk, with severe repercussions on public life. In the prevailing situation, the proposal to increase electricity and water prices again might prove as a severe blow.

According to Prothom Alo, the Dhaka WASA (Water and Sanitation Authority) board has decided to increase the price of water by 5 per cent at the residential and commercial levels, which is supposed to be effective from 1 September. But ignoring the board's decision, the management authority of Dhaka WASA has sent a proposal to the local government division to increase the water tariff up to 25 per cent for residential and 19 per cent for commercial connections. Earlier, Chittagong WASA had proposed to increase the price of water by 38 per cent.

It should be noted that currently the residential consumers of Dhaka WASA have to pay Tk 15.18 for every 1000 liters of water. If WASA's new proposal comes into effect, 1000 liters of water will cost Tk 19. On the other hand, in the case of commercial connection, the price of water per 1000 liters is currently Tk 42. According to WASA's new proposal, the price of water in commercial connections will be Tk 50. According to the law, the Dhaka WASA Management Authority can increase the price of water at the rate of 5 per cent every year. In case of hiking the price by a bigger margin, they must seek approval from the Ministry of Local Government.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) is trying hard to increase the price of electricity. Its proposal was to increase the price by 66 per cent. But the Technical Appraisal Committee constituted by Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) has recommended an increase of 58 per cent.

On behalf of the consumers, Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) strongly opposed the increase in electricity prices. Their argument is that this cost was assumed by estimating a 7 per cent growth in power generation. The government has reduced production by 10 per cent. Hence increasing the price of electricity for the sake of increase in cost is completely unreasonable. A final decision is expected to be made in this regard next week.

PDB is unable to provide uninterrupted power to the people. But the price is increasing every year. It was decided to provide prepaid meters to households to stop stealing and wastage. One-third of consumers have not even received prepaid meter in last six years. What is the reason behind it? The water supplied by Dhaka and Chittagong WASA is not potable. Gas of millions of worth is burned every month to boil WASA water. This cost should be recovered from WASA.

We want to say it clearly that in no way the prices of water and electricity can be increased at the moment. The arguments put forward by the PDB or WASA authorities for increasing the prices are also not credible. We think the income and expenditure of these two organisations should be audited by a third party. The burden of limitless irregularities, corruption and wastage in these two organisations cannot be placed on the consumers. Measures should be taken to reduce corruption and waste and increase revenue.

There is no alternative to hold the public tax funded institutions accountable for the crisis.