Gas prices increased; Cement industry saved

ISLAMABAD (October 31 2002) : The government has increased gas prices from October 25, by 1.63 percent, applicable equally to domestic and commercial consumers including public as well as industrial sector, sources told Business Recorder on Wednesday.

This is for the first time that increase will be applicable even to those consumers who consume gas up to 100 units. However, as a special case, upward revision in gas prices will not be applicable to cement industry. A formal notification to the increase was issued on October 25.

The gas bill for the month of October will include the increase as the decision stand implemented forthwith after issuance of the notification.

Talking to this correspondent, an official privy to the decision, said the increase was long due and now the government has taken a conscious decision.

It could be official explanation but the facts remain facts. The increase would further ditch the industrial sector, which was already heavily burdened due to high energy rates, said a prominent Islamabad-based industrialist and President Islamabad Chamber of Commerce, Mian Akram Farid.

It may be noted that the industrial sector is opposing the recent increase in power rates and demands its withdrawal. The increase in gas prices can add fuel to the fire.

He argued that since the increase was nominal it would hit the consumers to a great extent.

The current upward revision in gas rates is a part of energy rates formula agreed with the IMF and WB as a part of reforms to ensure release of Poverty Reduction Growth Facility (PRGF) tranche this year.

As per formula, the government is bound to revise upward gas and electricity rates twice a year. The Ministry of Petroleum had submitted a request to the federal government for 15 percent increase in gas prices some time back. The issue was discussed in a federal cabinet meeting in August last, which held back the final decision for some political reasons as it was the time when the President was presenting himself before the nation for referendum. The issue was again discussed but held back by the federal cabinet till formation of the new democratic government.

Sources said the Ministry had again approached the authorities that further delay may minimise the chances of Pakistan of securing PARG tranche which worked.

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