Titas Gas Company`s proposal to raise an average 75 percent gas price faced tremendous opposition from different consumer groups at the public hearing of the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commissionon Tuesday.
The consumer groups said if the gas price is raised it will bring multiple negative impact on the public life as it will lead to rise in transport cost, electricity tariff and price of other consumer goods as well.
BERC Chairman Monwar Islam presided over the public hearing at the TCB Auditorium while others members of the watchdog body were present on the occasion.
In the 75 percent average hike, the largest gas distribution company proposed to raise 206 percent price for power plants as it proposed Tk 10 per cubic meter (CM) for power plants in place of exiting price of Tk 3.16.
The gas price for fertiliser factories were proposed to hike the highest 372 percent where it sought the price to be Tk 12.80 per CM against the existing rate of Tk 2.71 per CM.
The captive power plants' gas price was proposed to be Tk 16 per CM against Tk 9.62 while industries gas price was proposed at Tk 15 per CM against the existing Tk 7.76 per CM and CNG gas price was proposed to be Tk 40 per CM against existing rate of Tk 32.
However, no price hike was proposed for the gas used by household and commercial consumers.
A technical evaluation committee of the BERC analysed the Titas Gas proposal, but did not give any recommendations to raise the gas price. Instead, it put forwarded a number of recommendations to bring structural change in the mechanism of fixing the gas price.
Installation of gas meter, 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 Tk 2000 crore surplus fund in its hand which it lends to different organisations.
So, there is no justification to raise its gas price, he said adding that the company realises bills for 88 cubic meter (CM) use of gas from a household consumer while such use is about 20 CM.
Titas officials illegally provide connections to huge consumers by taking bribes, he alleged saying that gas sector is facing same disaster like the country`s banking sector.
Eminent energy expert Prof Nurul Islam said Titas Gas lacks transparency in fixing its gas price for different consumer group.
Eminent geologist Prof Badrul Imam said an artificial gas crisis was created across the country by not doing any exploration works in last 9-10 years to give the benefit to a vested interest groups.
"Now the country had to step in a planned trap to import LNG to meet the domestic requirements."
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 in every stage of import of 1000 mmcfd, the Titas Gas has come to BERC to raise gas price. "This is absolutely a wrong policy to be dependent on imported gas instead of exploring 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, textile sector will lose competitiveness in the international market as it will raise their production cost by 40 US 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.