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23 March, 2019 12:30:13 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 March, 2019 09:57:45 AM
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Decision now lies with HC, says BERC

move to hike gas prices
SHAHED SIDDIQUE and FAISAL MAHMUD, Dhaka
Decision now lies with HC, says BERC

While the country's gas distribution companies of the country are waiting in bated breath for the declaration of a hike in the gas price, household and industrial consumers are still fighting for maintaining a status quo. The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC), which recently hold a public hearing on the gas price hike, meanwhile is waiting for a High Court (HC) directive to settle whether the price would be hiked or not.

Talking to The Independent, a senior official of the BERC said they heard the arguments and counter-arguments from all gas distribution companies and  consumer and rights groups. The problem is, said the BERC official, that the gas distributors said they are bleeding money because of LNG imports and its subsequent mixing into the gas distribution network.

At the same time, consumer groups argue that almost all the gas distributors show profit in their yearly accounts, so there is no logic behind the gas price hike proposal, he noted.

The Consumers' Association of Bangladesh (CAB) already filed a writ before the High Court in this regard. The HC bench

of Justice FRM Nazmul Ahasan and Justice KM Kamrul Kader declared that the bench would give its observation on the matter on March 31.

The BERC official said they would move on the basis of the outcome of the HC decision. “The HC decision is crucial now. We’ll give our observation and eventual declaration after the verdict of the HC,” added the official. The petitioner’s counsel,  barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, told The Independent that the BERC on Occtober 16, 2018 had turned down the proposals of Petrobangla and its subsidiary companies to hike the gas price. Later, a writ was filed with the High Court (HC) and it issued a rule. Though the rule is pending, it served a notice for public hearing for on gas tariff-hike proposals.

“We filed the petition seeking a stay on the effectiveness of the notice. After conclusion of the hearing, the court fixed March 31 for passing its order,” he said, describing the regulator’s process for public hearing as “unlawful” as there is no rule to hold public hearing twice in a fiscal year.

Referring to the BERC Act, CAB energy adviser Prof. Shamsul Alam said it is totally illegal to hold a public hearing on gas price hike within the same fiscal year of 2018–19 when the commission passed its order on October 16, 2018. He also said there was a similar hearing between June 11 and June 21 last year. The government finally backtracked from hiking the gas price, taking the “situation” ahead of the 11th general election into consideration.

The BERC started the recent public hearing on March 11 on the proposals placed by six gas distribution companies—Titas, Bakhrabad, Jalalabad, Pashchimanchal, Karnaphuli, and Sundarban—for the gas price hike at the consumer level.

Titas and Sundarban have demanded a 208 per cent hike for the gas consumed by power plants, 211 per cent for fertiliser companies, 96 per cent for captive power plants, 132 per cent for industries, 41 per cent for commercial entities, and 50 per cent for CNG-run vehicles. They are also seeking a 80 per cent rise in the monthly gas bill for both single-burner and double-burner cooking stoves, from Tk. 750 to Tk. 1,350 and from Tk. 800 to Tk. 1,440 respectively.

An official of the Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation (Petrobangla)  told The Independent: “We want the tariff to be hiked as we have to provide a Tk. 27,000 subsidy to the gas companies, considering the 1,000 mmcfd LNG import in the near future.”

The government currently supplies only around 520 mmcfd of LNG. but the price hikewould be based on the projected import, he noted.

IK/SI

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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