No Jokes this April


ISLAMABAD – The hefty fuel price increase announced by the government late on Thursday night will certainly be no April Fool’s joke for the people who are already reeling from their team’s defeat and exit from the Cricket World Cup at the hands of India. The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) announced an increase of 7.9-13 percent in prices of petroleum products, effective from today (Friday), after hectic negotiations with its coalition partners but soon after the decision was made public, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) expressed its reservations, saying the increase would put pressure on the already burdened people.
MQM’s parliamentary leader Dr Farooq Sattar and Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad Khan telephoned Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh separately and conveyed to him the party’s Rabita Committee’s concerns over the increase. A private TV channel reported that Interior Minister Rehman Malik also contacted the MQM leadership in London to allay their concerns over the petroleum prices.Earlier in the day, Finance Minister Shaikh and Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Masood met President Asif Ali Zardari and briefed him about the trend in international oil markets, but the announcement met an unusual delay because of opposition from the MQM, which had earlier parted ways with the ruling coalition in January this year on this very issue. The price of petrol has been increased by Rs 6.98 per litre from Rs 76.58 to Rs 83.56 per litre, HOBC by Rs 7.16 from Rs 90.96 per litre to Rs 98.12 per litre, high speed diesel (HSD) by Rs 10.67 per litre from Rs 82.22 to Rs 92.89 per litre, light diesel oil (LDO) by Rs 9.07 per litre from Rs 69.91 per litre to Rs 78.98 per litre, and kerosene by Rs 9.65 per litre from Rs 74.45 per litre to Rs 84.10.OGRA Executive Director Syed Jawad Nasim told a press conference that the government would have to bear a subsidy of Rs 10 billion in April despite increasing the prices, and during the last five months the government had already borne a subsidy of Rs 35 billion. “The total subsidy on POL products during the last six months stands at Rs 45 billion,” he added.
Nasim said that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had told the finance and petroleum ministries to chalk out a strategy to lessen the impact of high international POL prices on the people. “In the last five months, diesel prices have risen 45 percent in the international market while the government has just passed on 18 percent of the increase to the consumers in Pakistan. Similarly, petrol prices have increased by 35 percent while the government has passed on 15 percent increase to the consumers,” he added. Pakistan’s annual petroleum products demand is about 20 million tons, 400,000 barrels per day, out of which only 13 percent is met through local resources while the rest of the 87 percent is imported as crude oil and deficit refined petroleum products like motor spirit, high speed diesel and furnace oil.