Titas Gas Company`s proposal to raise an average 75% gas price faced tremendous opposition from different consumer groups at the public hearing of the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) on Tuesday.
The consumer groups said if the gas price is increased, it will leave a negative impact on the public as the rise will lead to higher costs in transport, electricity tariff and other consumer goods.
BERC Chairman Monwar Islam presided over the public hearing at the TCB Auditorium while other members of the watchdog body were present.
In the 75% average hike, the largest gas distribution company proposed a 206% price raise for power plants, proposing Tk 10 per cubic meter (CM) in place of the existing price of Tk3.16.
The gas price for fertilizer factories were proposed to hike upto 372% , seeking the price to be Tk12.80 per CM against the existing rate of Tk 2.71.
The captive power plants’ gas price was proposed to be Tk16 per CM against Tk9.62 while the gas price for industries was proposed at Tk15 per CM against the existing Tk7.76 per CM and CNG price proposed at Tk40 per CM against existing Tk32.
However, no price hike was proposed for the gas used by household and commercial consumers.
A technical evaluation committee of BERC analyzed the Titas Gas proposal, but did not give any recommendations to the raise. Instead, it forwarded a number of recommendations to bring structural change in the mechanism of fixing the gas price.
Installing gas meters, fixing gas price based on actual consumption and incentives for regular payment of bills by consumers are among the recommendations.
Advisor to Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Prof M Shamsul Alam said Titas Gas has over Tk2,000 crore surplus funds which it lends to various organizations.
There is no justification in raising the gas prices, he said adding that the company realizes bills for 88 cubic meter (CM) use of gas from a household consumer while such use is about 20 CM.
Titas officials illegally provide gas connections to many consumers by taking bribes, he alleged stating that the gas sector is facing same disaster like the banking sector.
Eminent energy expert Prof Nurul Islam said Titas Gas lacks transparency in fixing the gas price for different consumer groups.
Eminent geologist Prof Badrul Imam said an artificial gas crisis was created across the country by not conducting any exploration work in last 9-10 years to give the benefit to a vested interest group.
“Now the country had to step into a planned trap to import LNG to meet domestic requirements,” he said.
He also observed that the government will gradually increase the gas import up to 4000 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) which will ultimately make the country an imported LNG-dependent country.
He said at every stage of import of 1000 mmcfd, Titas Gas had come to BERC to increase the gas price. “This is an absolutely wrong policy - to be dependent on imported gas instead of exploring the availability of local gas.”
Eminent architecture and consumer right groups leader Mobasher Hossain alleged that unscrupulous officials at Titas are forcing consumers to bribe them to get gas connection illegally.
Director of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association Shahed Alam said if gas price is raised, the textile sector will lose competitiveness in the international market as it would have to raise their production cost by $0.40 cents per kg of spinning thread.
Finance Controller of Power Development Board (PDB) Mizanur Rahman said any rise in gas price substantially affects the cost of electricity generation and compel them to raise the power tariff.
Chief Coordinator of Gonosanghoti Andolon Zonayed Saki said the government is deliberately pursuing a wrong policy of import-oriented gas use.