The Financial Express

'Stimulus package or subsidy to BPC could have been a way out'

| Updated: November 19, 2021 19:59:23

'Stimulus package or subsidy to BPC could have been a way out'

The government should have offered a stimulus package or provided a subsidy to state-run Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) instead of raising fuel prices, speakers at a seminar opined on Thursday.

The government could also have avoided the move by reducing the tax which is projected at Tk 78.38 billion, they said.

They also demanded that the government cancel the decision of raising oil prices for the betterment of the country's economy.

The experts were speaking at a webinar on 'Energy Prices Hike: Upcoming Impact' - organised by the Forum for Energy Reporters Bangladesh (FERB).

Md Anisur Rahman, senior secretary of Energy and Mineral Resources Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, was the chief guest at the function, while BPC Chairman ABM Azad was present as a special guest.

Speaking at the event, Mr Rahman said the decision of raising oil prices could have been delayed if the government had not taken around Tk 10 billion from the BPC over the past two years.

He, however, said that the prices were raised monitoring the upward trend of oil prices in the international market over the past six months.

The decision of raising oil prices was a political one and did not come from bureaucrats, said the senior secretary.

In the current situation, the government does not have any plan to raise the prices of octane and petrol now, he added.

Speaking on the occasion, BPC chairman said the Corporation had taken several projects worth Tk 300-350 billion with the profit it attained against oil trade over the past several years.

Energy Adviser of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh Dr Shamsul Alam demanded formation of a 'price stabilisation fund' in order to absorb the shock of fuel price movement from the fund instead of raising the prices.

He also stressed the importance of 'boldness' from Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) in a bid to protect the interest of general people.

The oil prices were raised 'illegally' as the authority to do the job is bestowed upon the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission, Mr Alam added.

Research Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue Khondaker Golam Moazzem demanded halting the oil price hike decision.

The decision of raising fuel prices was 'wrong' and the government could have avoided the move in several ways, including taking soft loans from global lenders, he said.

Secretary General of the Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samittee, a welfare body for the passengers of public transport, Mozammel Haq Chowdhury said the move to raise oil prices would eat up around Tk 730 billion from the people annually.

He also alleged that the transport owners were charging higher fares than the government-fixed rates.

Speaking at the event, energy expert Professor Ijaz Hossain opined that the 'arbitrarily' raised fuel prices would affect industrialisation.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association's Director Mohiuddin Rubel said the increased fuel prices would raise around 1.0 per cent free on board (FOB) costs in shipments of export goods.

Mohammed Hatem, executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, lamented saying that the government did not reduce oil prices in the domestic market when the price was low in the international market.

FERB Chairman Arun Karmakar chaired the online event, which was moderated by the FERB Executive Director Shamim Jahangir.

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