Vigorously opposing the government`s proposal to raise gas price, consumer rights groups, apex trade body FBCCI and different left-leaning political parties on Sunday during the first day of public hearing said that there are no logical grounds to the proposal.”The gas transmission and distribution companies are now making adequate profits in their businesses. So, they cannot be allowed to make further profits,” Prof Shamsul Alam, advisor of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), told the public hearing, held by Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) at the city’s TCB Auditorium.The Gas Transmission Company Limited (GTCL) placed its proposal in the hearing proposing to raise gas transmission charge to Tk 0.3665 per cubic metre from the existing charge of Tk 0.1565 cubic metre. Referring to the government`s instruction, the GTCL also proposed to raise prices of gas for different consumer groups by almost double on average.As per the proposal, household gas price will be hiked by highest 140 percent where gas price will be raised to Tk 16.80 per unit from Tk 7.
The cost of single burner oven will to go up to Tk 1100 from the existing Tk 600 while the double burner will be Tk 1200 from the existing Tk 650 per month. The proposed hikes are 83 and 85 percent respectively for single and double burner ovens.The compressed natural gas (CNG) price has been proposed to be raised by 83 percent to Tk 49.50 pere unit from the exiting Tk 27. In this case, the consumer will have to pay Tk 57.50 for per unit in place of the current price of Tk 35 per unit.The power plant’s gas price has been proposed at Tk 4.60 per unit (per cubic metre) from Tk 2.82 with 63 percent hike.The gas price for industries was proposed to be Tk 10.95 per unit instead of Tk 6.78 with 62 percent hike in price.The commercial establishments’ gas price was sought to be raised by 72 percent to Tk 19.50 percent from the existing Tk 11.36 per unit.The gas price for fertilizer factories was proposed to be set at Tk 4.41 per unit from Tk 2.82 with a 71 percent hike in price.Placing the proposal, the GTCL officials said that the government has initiated a move to import LNG for meeting gas demand.”If the gas transmission charge is not raised, it would not be possible for the company to implement the government`s future projects to transmit imported LNG,” they said.A technical committee of the BERC, however, evaluating the GTCL proposal, said that the transmission charge could be increased by 88.88 percent through refixing it at Tk 0.2956 per cubic metre.Taking part in the hearing, FBCCI president Abdul Matlub Ahmed said that the country`s export business has been facing tough competition in the global market for different reasons.”If the gas price is hiked, the export business will be severely affected by losing its competitiveness,” he said.The apex business body chief also opposed the price hike proposal saying that it will take two to three years more time to import LNG. Before start of such import, the government or GTCL cannot raise the gas price in the name of implementing future infrastructure projects.CPB leader Ruhin Hossain Price said the GTCL and other gas companies are already making huge profits and providing each of their employees about Tk 450,000 per year as bonus which is more than their salaries. In such a situation, there is no ground to raise the gas price.Energy expert Prof Nurul Islam said that the BERC should hold public hearing on bulk gas price. Because it would not be wise to fix the retail gas price before the bulk gas price.BERC chairman AR Khan said the commission would make its decision after completion of hearing on all proposals placed by different gas companies.The BERC will hold public hearing on the proposal of the Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company.