People reeling from the rising cost of living is set to suffer a further blow as the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission raised power prices by 5.30 per cent on an average after increasing gas prices by about 22 per cent this year.
The commission on Thursday announced the fresh hike in the power price by 5.30 per cent or Tk 0.35 per unit (kilowatt-hour) on an average with effect from December 1.
With the latest hike, the commission, during the Awami League-led government’s two successive tenures, has raised the average retail price of electricity by 81.91 per cent, up from Tk 3.76 per unit unit to Tk 6.84 in nine phases since March 2010.
The latest round of power price hike will badly hit the country’s export-based manufacturing sector and low- and middle-income families, said consumers, manufacturers and experts.
The cost of living will go up for not only power bills, but other essential supplies as well because of the cascade effect of power price hike, they said.
House rent, prices at kitchen market, education expenses of children and transport fare are already too high to bear, said Md Abdus Salam, who works for a private company and lives at Mirpur in Dhaka.
‘How could the families like ours survive with growing price hikes of all commodities as our earnings do not grow that fast,’ he asked.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh energy adviser M Shamsul Alam, also an electrical engineer, said that the energy commission had lost its credibility by ignoring the arguments placed during public hearing for reducing power prices.
The energy commission, influenced by the government, passed the unjustified expenses at power generation end to distribution end on the consumers, which is totally unlawful, he said.
Reduction of fuel oil prices in line with the government’s import cost and rationalisation of salaries and other benefits of the officials of power distribution utilities could enable the commission to reduce the power price, he explained.
Energy expert M Tamim echoed M Shamsul Alam and said that the energy pricing issue would continue creating controversy until the commission acted independently, particularly being free of the government influences.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Md Siddiqur Rahman said that the increased power price would add to their production cost, already increased by 18 per cent in the past two years.
The exporters will loss competitiveness in the global market putting adverse impact on the country’s industrialisation, stuck for the past few years, he said.
The new tariff offers ease in electric bills for some three million people, who consume less than 15 units a month, as their net bill would be reduced by up to 13 per cent while the other categories of consumers would be affected directly for increased power bills.
The new tariff will force the domestic consumers, who consume between 75 and 1,000 units a month, to pay up to 7.7 per cent more than the existing bills, according to an estimate prepared by the commission to assess the direct effect of power price hike at consumers’ end.
The estimate also showed that the monthly bill would increase by 10.60 per cent for large commercial consumers for consuming 15,000 units, 7.5 per cent for small industries consuming 2,000 units, 7.5 per cent for medium industries consuming 20,000 units and 7.3 per cent for large industries consuming 200,000 units a month.
Prime minister’s energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, talking to reporters on the sideline of Sector (power) Leaders’ Workshop 2017 in Dhaka, claimed that the power price hike would not leave adverse effect on the economy and requested all not to play ‘political games’ with the power price hike.
In a statement Friday, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port urged the government scrap its ‘mega plan of frequent energy price hike’ and conceive plans to reduce the prices of electricity, gas and fuel oils.
On Thursday, immediately after the commission announced the price hike, the Communist Party of Bangladesh, the Socialist Party of Bangladesh and Left Democratic Alliances called an eight-hour (6:00am-2:00pm) nationwide general strike for November 30 for scrapping the power tariff order.
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