Fuelling public anger

The nation seems braced for a year that promises an even more miserable and tough time ahead for citizens. The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) has announced a massive increase of about 3-9 percent in petroleum products, which the public fears will cause inflation to skyrocket. Citing an increase in international prices, OGRA has helped usher in a dismal new year. Whenever there is a spike in global petroleum prices, Pakistan must follow suit but the public is in the dark how this increase is calculated here, how much is extracted as taxes and how much is the bare minimum increase to meet the rising international trend. It is because there exists no transparent method behind the formulation of petroleum price increases that the public is becoming extremely perturbed. For example, some 50 percent is taxes of the pump price while the remaining 50 percent is the actual cost of the petroleum product.

Now, for the entire sum to increase due to the international price spike leads to public disillusionment about a government that does not inform them about policies that directly affect them. OGRA must develop a complete transparency plan where it relates the details of all such decisions to the people. Because of this lack of transparency, it is not surprising that different corners are accusing the government of filling the tax void through debilitating price hikes due to the inability of getting the Reformed General Sales Tax approved. To lessen the heat of such arguments the government must stop disassociating itself from OGRA. Musharraf may have given all control over petroleum pricing to the oil market companies that acted as judge and jury in their own cause but the PPP’s decision to hand over control to OGRA is proving to be a move that rests in the same league. Also, when petroleum prices decrease internationally, we do not reap the advantage. Why are we destined to only suffer price hikes and not cost relief?In a country like Pakistan, where the poor man relies on kerosene because electricity has become a luxury and where diesel is the main fuel for transport and trade, the impact will be felt harshly.

With the escalating cost of fuel, every sector is bound to feel the brunt and the poor man is going to suffer unimaginably. Protests have already been held and are now being planned to urge the government to revise this decision. From Lahore to Hyderabad people are gearing up to stage their dissent; this should serve as an alarm call for the government to urge OGRA to get its act together.Another abuse of this system is when petrol pumps throughout the country refuse to sell petrol to the public immediately before the price hike is due. Not only does this inconvenience the citizens, it shows the blatant disregard petrol barons and their political backers have for the public. Because there is no transparency in how petroleum matters are dealt with, we do not know how news about significant price hikes are leaked out to benefit the pump owners who close shop a day in advance and reap mega profit windfalls.The public is surviving on a thin line with no electricity, no gas, no clean drinking water and now barely affordable petroleum. The situation looks bleak and the government had better plan a thing or two for the benefit of the people before they lose their patience – Dailytimes