The government on Thursday increased the prices of natural gas by 22.7 per cent on an average across the board in two phases with effect from next month amid protests.
The protesters said that almost all sectors of the economy – households to industries, power generation to tea plantation and commercial activities to transport sector – would need to bear the enhanced price hike.
The household natural gas users, however, would take the major brunt of the latest price hikes as their monthly payment for using natural gas in kitchen increased by 50 per cent although they consumed less than 10 per cent of the daily gas consumption.
The monthly tariff was increased to Tk 950 from the existing Tk 650 for a double-burner stove and Tk 900 from the existing Tk 600 for a single-burner stove in two phases.
The household consumers will have to pay Tk 800 a month for a double-burner stove and Tk 750 a month
for a single-burner stove from March 1.
The price of a cubic metre compressed natural gas, used in the automobiles, would be Tk 40 in two phases.
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission officials who announced the increase of the gas prices at a press conference on Thursday said that roughly 11 per cent increase in natural gas prices would be made effective in each of the two phases.
Commission chairman Monwar Islam who was appointed as chief of the commission in February said that the gas prices increase was ‘logical.’
He said that the gas distribution companies had proposed 94.7 per cent increase in the gas prices.
Responding to queries, he said that the government decision to raise the gas price for the household consumers by a considerable amount was not for making an able situation to sell the liquefied natural gas to be imported.
The government was trying to reduce the gap between purchasing and selling prices of gas, he said.
He also said that there would no contribution to the gas development fund from the higher income of the government following the latest gas price hikes.
In August 2016, the commission held public hearings on proposed gas price hike but socio-political organisations termed the move as callous and illogical which would serve a blow to the already hard-pressed people.
Earlier, the government increased the prices of gas in September 1, 2015.
Before that the monthly charges were increased to Tk 400 from Tk 350 and Tk 450 from Tk 400 for a single and double burner stove respectively in 2009.
The previous charges of Tk 350 and Tk 400 were set in January 2005.
On July 1, 2004, the government increased the monthly charge for a single burner to Tk 340 and for a double burner to Tk 390 from previous Tk 325 and Tk 375 respectively.
According to the latest announcement by the commission on Thursday, commercial users would need to pay Tk 14.20 from March 1 and Tk 17.02 from June 1 per cubic metre gas. The existing rate is Tk 11.30.
For every cubic metre of gas, tea gardens will have to pay Tk 6.93 from March 1 and Tk 7.42 from June 1. The existing price is Tk 6.25 per cubic metre.
Industrial users will need to pay Tk 7.24 per cubic metre from March 1 and Tk 7.76 from June 1 from the existing Tk 6.74.
Fertilizer factories will have to pay Tk 2.64 per cubic metre from March 1 and Tk 2.71 from June 1 from the existing Tk 2.58.
The gas price for captive power plants will be Tk 8.98 per cubic metre from March 1 and Tk 9.62 from June 1 from the existing Tk 8.36.
The gas price for power sector consumers is Tk 2.99 per cubic metre from March 1 and Tk 3.16 from June 1 from the existing Tk 2.82.
Different political parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the Communist Party of Bangladesh and Democratic Left Alliance, business bodies, and Consumer Association of Bangladesh protested against the gas price hikes.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh said that the increase in gas prices was arbitrary and that the general people would bear the brunt of it as businesses were contemplating to increase product prices.
Its president Ghulam Rahman said that they were planning to challenge the decision in the court to protect the rights of the consumers.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president, Siddiqur Rahman, said it was a very bad time for any price hike and that it would impact their products’ competitiveness.
He said businesses are planning to sit at the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry to see what they could do to help their situation.
The owners of vehicles run on CNG demanded that the government raise fares before charging them more for gas.
‘I urge the government for setting a new fare chart that operate on CNG,’ said Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association secretary general, Khandaker Enayet Ullah.
The Dhaka Metropolitan CNG Auto-Rickshaw Owners Association president Barkat Ullah Bhulu feared that a chaos might follow if the gas price was enforced without raising the fare of the auto-rickshaws.
BNP asked the government to cancel the ‘anti-people’ and ‘irrational’ decision.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at a briefing at the party chairperson’s Gulshan office said that people would not accept the government’s decision.
The Communist Party of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal in a joint statement condemned the decision.
They announced demonstrations in front of National Press Club this afternoon protesting against the gas price hike.
Democratic Left Alliance, a platform of eight left leaning political parties, in a statement, said that the ‘cold-hearted and illogical’ decision of the government would inflict a cruel blow on the people. They demanded immediate cancellation of the decision.