The Financial Express

Handling gas issue with due care

Handling gas issue with due care

What's wrong on the energy front? The government is wresting the power of setting gas prices from the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC). The cabinet has approved an amendment to the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission Act to this effect. It will allow the government to issue executive orders to raise gas prices. No doubt the move will leave the BERC redundant. But it has also become a cause of concerns among the people. A sense of uncertainty has seized the people who are already at the receiving end of the recent fuel price hike.

The things have come to such a pass that the people now feel perturbed at every decision to raise energy and power prices. Already reeling from an inflationary pressure of 8.91 per cent as of October last, they just cannot think of what will happen next, if another energy or power price hike happens. 

The people always bear the brunt of any imprudent decision of the state functionaries, though they are not part of it. The gas crisis we are facing now might not have happened, if the gas exploration work was conducted properly. India and Myanmar explored their resources in the Bay of Bengal, but we did not, though we settled our  maritime boundary disputes with our neighbours through an international court.

It is heartening to note that the state agencies concerned have started to work on it with fresh vigour. They resumed work on the abandoned Biyanibazar well and it paid off. It came online this week, supplying seven million cubic feet of gas per day to the national grid. Though this is a very scanty amount compared to the demand, still it is a welcome move. The authorities plan to explore 46 such wells by 2025.

Another recent cabinet decision that drew attention of the concerned section of people is the permission for the private sector to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the spot market. LNG purchase from the spot market was halted in August last following a steep rise in its prices. There is an apprehension that if it is left to the private sector, a section of people may find an opportunity there to fulfill their profiteering motive and pass the burden onto the commoners  as happened to rental power.

Gas is like the lifeblood of the industry. An industry cannot run without gas as it is dependent on this fuel to generate electricity and keep its manufacturing units running. It has been learnt from an apt source that an exporter has decided to sell his factory, as it has been difficult on his part to run it amid the prevailing gas crisis. He was struggling to meet the shipment deadlines. Once or twice he bore extra costs to deliver the consignments by air, but at one stage he lost his buyers due to the delayed shipments. Thus he began to count losses and finally decided to discontinue the business. This is one example. We do not know how many of them are there. If the wheels of production are not kept in motion, its impact will be left on both micro and macro levels. The jobs will be lost, exports will decline and the economic growth will be the ultimate casualty. So, it should be borne in mind that any misstep in dealing with energy and power issues may prove disastrous for the whole nation.

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