Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (Basad) have called a half-day shutdown for Tuesday in Dhaka to protest against the latest household gas price hike.
CPB President Mujahidul Islam Selim, Secretary General Syed Abu Zafar Ahmed and Basad Secretary General Khalequzzaman announced the hartal on Friday. The decision to hike gas prices had not been in the best interest of the people and demanded that the decision be scrapped, said the statment signed by them.
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) on Thursday announced a fresh hike in gas tariff to be effective in two phases from March 1 and June 1 respectively.As per the new tariff, household single and double burner will cost Tk 750 and Tk 800 from March 1 and Tk 900 and Tk 950 from June 1 respectively.
Piped gas currently costs Tk 600 for a single burner and Tk 650 for a double burner.
The government will earn additional Tk 4,185 crore a year due to the hike in gas prices. While announcing the tariff hike during a press conference, BERC Chairman Monowar Islam termed the tariff hike ‘logical’.
The tariff hike came despite widespread opposition from various rights groups, industrialists and political parties. The Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) has already said they will challenge the hike in the court to ensure justice for the consumers.
As per the new price chart, the tariff for compressed natural gas (CNG) will soar to Tk 38 per cubic metre from March 1 and to 40 per cubic metre from June 1. CNG currently sells at Tk 35 per cubic metre.
Besides, the gas tariff for electricity generation will jump to Tk 2.99 per cubic metre from March 1 and to 3.16 per cubic metre from June 1. The tariff is currently Tk 2.82 per cubic metre. The gas tariff for captive power plants will increase to Tk 8.98 and Tk 9.62 per cubic metre from existing 8.36.
The gas price for fertiliser units will soar to Tk 2.64 per cubic meter from Tk 2.58 in the first phase and to Tk 2.71 per cubic meter in the second phase.
CAB Energy Adviser Prof M Shamsul Alam told daily sun that they will go to the court as the BERC hiked gas tariff without settling the issue of supplementary duty (SD), VAT and other duties being imposed on the gas tariff.
He also said the SD, VAT and other duty issues make up 81 percent of the gas tariff. “It means the gas sector will not get the benefits of the tariff hike,” Prof M Shamsul Alam said. Alam said they had opposed the gas tariff hikes during the public hearings in August last year, but the tariff hike did not reflect their arguments. “This is illogical and has violated the interests of the consumers,” he said, adding that the tariff had been increased in line with the roadmap of the energy ministry.
Talking to the daily sun, CNG filling stations owners’ association president Masud Khan said they have contributed 22 percent of Titas’s total revenue though they use only five percent of its gas supply. “It’s a conspiracy against the CNG sector to raise tariff hike,” he said. “Transport fares would rise significantly from March and it’s a conspiracy against the government also,” he added.
Trade bodies, rights groups, energy experts, and BNP opposed the government’s move to hike gas prices when the BERC held the public hearing on the tariff increase proposals in August last year. During the hearing, the trade bodies requested to take a decision on gas tariff after examining the supplementary duty (SD) and VAT issues. SD is imposed on luxury goods only, they argued.
In response to a question on whether the BERC would compensate the consumers facing a supply shortage of gas, the BERC Chairman said, “We is concerned about the issue and the government is trying its best to overcome crisis through exploring new gas and planning for importing LNG in future.” He also said they have no plan to raise gas tariff for future LNG import.