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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Prime Minister takes notice of GNN program on Gas price hike

News Desk |

Prime minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan, has taken a strong notice of the exaggerated gas billing to domestic consumers. During a meeting in Lahore, the prime minister directed the petroleum minister, Mr. Ghulam Sarwar Khan, to urgently look into this matter. Later Information Minister also briefed the media. This issue was first raised by the prominent anchorperson Dr. Moeed Pirzada in his program “Live with Moeed Pirzada”, on GNN, on Thursday, 31th January.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWBMjBEnBb0

Pirzada had invited Mian Shahid, GNN’s Bureau Chief in Islamabad for this discussion. Mian Shahid has been covering energy markets for the past several years. Before joining GNN he worked with Dunya News and reported on gas and electricity matters. Shahid explained that the gas bills, being received by the domestic consumers, are quite exaggerated.

Mr. Ghulam Sarwar Khan, to urgently look into this matter. Later Information Minister also briefed the media.

Reports are coming in that even lower-middle-class families in Rawalpindi and Islamabad who used to get a bill of around Rs. 10,000 in December got bills of Rs. 30, 000 and above for the month of December 2018. In certain cases, bills shot up to Rs. 40,000. Many houses where people were out of town for several days also received similar bills. Mian Shahid explained that Sui Northern Gas is sending what is called “presumptive bills” – bills based on estimates rather than actual consumption.

Read more: Government likely to announce the increase in gas prices today

Mian Shahid also explained that according to sources talking to media government has asked electricity and gas companies to deposit 15% of their collected revenue directly into the Ministry of Finance for budgetary support. And ten Electricity DISCOS and two gas companies (SNGC & SSGC) are under pressure to meet their assigned targets, thus the exaggerated estimated billings.

Anchor, Dr. Pirzada, then asked, will this not be considered a kind of tax? To which Mian Shahid responded in affirmative, agreeing that this policy if true as being described tantamount to a kind of additional undeclared tax. In September 2018, after the ECC meeting, the government had decided to raise the gas prices in different slabs.

Shahid explained that the gas bills, being received by the domestic consumers, are quite exaggerated.

At the lower end where the domestic consumer uses less than 50 cubic meters of gas in a month, the prices were raised by 10%, while at the upper end where the consumer is using 500 cubic meters or more the price hike was 143%. However, experts looking at the bills being received believe that the kind of bills received by domestic consumers cannot be explained even by these increased gas tariffs – and what is happening can only be explained by the phenomenon of “presumptive billing”.

Read more: Gas shortfall: PM Khan takes actions against SNGPL & SSGC

Dr. Pirzada had argued in his program, on Thursday (31st Jan) that whatever opposition is agitating (Aleema Khan, Sahiwal Killings by CTD, Banigala House and KP Helicopter case etc.)  will not affect government’s popularity however its financial policies like the exorbitant gas billings will soon start to hurt the government’s standing amongst its support base.

Now, since Prime Minister has ordered the Petroleum Minister to look into this crucial matter, hopefully, a reasonable solution for the high price hike is possible. Another development in is that government has allowed the domestic gas consumers who are getting exaggerated bills to pay the gas bills in instalments if it is difficult for them to pay the bill as a whole at once.