Public rejects increase in petroleum prices
A sharp increase in petroleum prices is the New Year’s gift that the government of Pakistan has presented to its people. Acting on suggestion of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), the government has approved, with immediate effect, an increase of up to 9 per cent in the prices of petroleum products.
The price of petrol has jumped to Rs79.69 per litre with an increase of Rs6.71, while that of high speed diesel and light diesel has spiralled to Rs82.58 and Rs70.95 per litre respectively, after an increase of Rs4.36. The new price for high octane has been fixed at Rs94.36 while an increase of Rs4.36 per litre has been made in the price of kerosene oil.
In an interaction with the media, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said, the government had no option but to transfer to the public, the load of rising petroleum prices in the international market. “We either had to cut the developmental budget or contact international lending agencies if adjustments in the prices had not made,” he said.
The public has rejected the increase in petroleum prices and has termed it suicidal for people who are already burdened by rising inflation. In an environment where there is an ongoing debate on possible imposition of Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST), withdrawal of all subsidies, increment in electricity tariff and reduction of budgetary deficit to meet the conditions imposed by International Monetary Fund (IMF), the rise in petroleum prices would become difficult for the government to impose.
All segments of society criticised the government’s decision to increase the prices of petroleum products, which will further trigger price-hike and inflation.
Shafqaat Zahoor, a student said, “I was thinking of buying a motorbike to overcome my commuting problems but have indefinitely deferred my plan because with the prices of petrol constantly rising, I cannot afford to keep a motorbike.”
Rukhsana Aziz, a housewife said, people are already living hand to mouth and that any increase in petroleum prices would have devastating consequences on families. “The government is pushing us against the wall. We are left with no option but to commit suicide,” she remarked with a sense of despondency.
“The government has no other agenda but to tease the public. Have we ever benefited when oil prices in the international market are on the decline? If not, why the load should now be passed on the hapless public,” asked Khursheed Ahmed, a government employee.
Increase in petrol prices will naturally lead to a rise in public transport fares. Tajjamal Hussain, a transporter, clarified that increase in petroleum prices does not benefit transporters in any way. “We had a lot of business when the fare was Rs10 or less. However, when it jumped to Rs12, people preferred to walk short distances rather than taking a ride in a public transport vehicle. Now, if the fares are readjusted once again, we will lose more than 60 per cent fares and will be forced to shut our business,” Tajjamal feared.