Gas consumes are in for yet another price shock. The natural gas tariff is set to rise further, beginning the new financial year. Only a month after assuming power – in September 2018 to be exact – the PTI government had raised the gas tariff by a mammoth 143%. The objective was to keep the two gas utilities – SNGPL and SSGCL – floating without having to inject funds from the federal budget. And who else than the masses could have been better sucked at for bridging this revenue gap! And now with the dollar effect coming into play, Ogra has recommended another raise in the price of the commodity – 47%, on an average, in case of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 28% in case of Sindh and Balochistan.
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The regulator’s recommendations run contrary to what the government had promised a few days back. Dr Hafeez Shaikh, the PM’s adviser on finance, revenue and economic affairs, had announced that the raise in gas price would be directly proportional to the amount consumed i.e. less raise for less consumption and vice versa. Whereas, the raise that Ogra has sought points towards a reciprocal proportion which is evident from its slab-wise recommendations: 18% to 32% for the consumers falling in the first three slabs while 4% to 12% for those falling in the last three slabs. That it is the government that will have the final say in the matter must go in favour of consumers.
The gas price, though, is not only thing playing on the minds of the masses since the pricier dollar is feared to take a toll on virtually everything. With the greenback gaining about ten rupees in just a couple of days last week, prices of petroleum products are anticipated to soar as the monthly adjustment time comes. The rise in petrol prices means a rise in transport fares too which will, in turn, jack up the prices of fruits and vegetables, among other things. CNG rates in Punjab have already been raised by up to Rs3 per kg. The prices of imported items are unlikely to spare the effect of the dearer dollar. That the imported items include industrial raw material means that even local produce will go costlier.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2019.