Sunday November 27, 2022

Petrol up – again

By Editorial Board
January 02, 2022

As the last gift of the parting year, the government increased the prices of petrol and high speed diesel (HSD) by four rupees per litre on Dec 31. The new prices have become effective from the first day of 2022, adding further to the misery of a people already facing high inflation that is unprecedented in many ways. A fortnightly review of petroleum prices has become a regular practice, and more often than not it results in unpleasant news for the citizens of Pakistan. Though the government claims that the prime minister rejected the proposal of the Oil and Gas regulatory Authority (Ogra) for a higher increase in prices of petroleum products, even four rupees per litre increase is no small shot. All this is happening to meet the petroleum levy target agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

There are certain points here that deserve comments. First, after three and half years in power how could the government be in such an economic state that it had to make a commitment that would directly affect the common people? Of course, the government has agreed with the IMF for a net fiscal adjustment of nearly Rs550 billion during the remaining part of the current fiscal year. That means that, for the next six months, the government will be dropping similar bomb shells of higher prices regularly. If there has to be some fiscal adjustment, it must be the result of an economic policy that is pro-people. At the moment, it appears that the sole target of the government is to somehow please the IMF to receive a meagre amount of a couple of billion dollars – and that too as a loan. The way the government has been increasing national debt and asking for largesse from friendly countries, makes our international standing extremely precarious. If the government has to implement a so-called ‘austerity plan’ for the revival of the six-billion-dollar package from the IMF, this plan must take into consideration the hardships such a plan will inflict on common people.

And just by accusing the previous governments, the PTI and its ministers cannot shirk their own responsibilities in terms of taking care of the needs of citizens. There is a limit to how ‘austere’ life can be in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, surging inflation, and spiraling unemployment. The price of petrol has been increased from Rs140.8 to Rs144.8, and this is just the first increase of the year. That means by the end of this fiscal year there could well be an overall increase of at least Rs24 in the prices of petrol taking it to a staggering level of Rs170 a litre. People need more relief in winter and under the current circumstances ‘austerity measures’ will break the backs of the poor, the salaried and anyone not in the one percent of this country.