‘Consumers have to buy electricity at two to two and a half times more than the actual price due to corruption’
Wholesale price of electricity has increased by 118% and retail price by 89.63 % in the last 11 years, speakers said during a webinar on Monday.
The Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) and Voktakantho organized the webinar, titled "Consumer Rights Protection in Energy Conversion."
During the discussion, it was also revealed that the power sector receives a government subsidy of Tk7,000-8,000 crore every year.
Journalist Manjurul Ahsan presented the keynote address at the webinar, which was chaired by Ghulam Rahman, former chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission and president of the Consumer Association of Bangladesh-CAB, and co-hosted by Voktakantha editor Kazi Abdul Hannan and CAB organizer Syed Mizanur Rahman.
Manjurul Ahsan said that the Power Development Board (PDB), after being separated into two companies, increased the cost of manpower.
The data they provide indicates these costs. “But much information of irregularities remains hidden,” he also said.
Ahsan also said that shares of state-owned companies were being sold and given away for private ownership. These companies he alleges keep that money in FDRs with different banks.
“Later on, no one knew where the money from this sale went. Over the years, consumer organizations have shown that there is no need to increase the price of electricity, but rather it can be reduced. But despite all this, electricity prices went up in the last 11 years,” he observed.
Experts attend a webinar on Bangladesh's power and energy sector organized by the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) and Voktakantho on Monday, June 21, 2021Highlighting the bureaucracy's relationship with the PDB or related companies, the veteran journalist said the company's board members are not responsible for irregularities, but neither do they take responsibility for profits and/or losses.
Speaking of the conflict of interest, he showed that a key person goes to the secretariat and makes a decision to prevent any price hikes, but returns to the same power company where he is also in a leading position, going on to increase the price, thus making contradictory decisions.
CAB energy adviser and dean of the faculty of engineering at Daffodil International University Prof M Shamsul Alam said: "It is our right to get the right price for electricity or fuel."
At the same time, the constitution has also ensured the protection of the environment, he noted.
He said the question of transformation in the development of the energy sector is coming up. Work on transformation started in the country 17 years ago. “The government has not been able to show efficiency in subduing various companies. Even though the minimum price has been fixed for the companies, the companies are not caring about it.”
“The regulatory commission was tasked with protecting consumer rights and attracting foreign investment. Consumers have to buy electricity at two to two and a half times more than the actual price due to corruption,” he noted.
MM Akash, professor at the economics department at Dhaka University, said the company wanted planned intervention in the energy sector to keep the market under control.
“No one knows the actual cost of generating electricity in the private sector, including quick rentals. The government has enacted an indemnity law in the power sector which is not acceptable,” he said.
Malay Kumar Bhowmick, a professor in the Department of Management at Rajshahi University, said the assets owned by the people were being handed over to looters and traders.
"We are witnessing an increase in irregularities of the board members of the companies from inactiveness," he also said.
He added that it is the consumers who have to go through an ordeal to get electricity services with new connections.