Be rational about fuel price hike as subsidy has a limit: PM
The government spends some Tk53,000 crore in subsidies for diesel, power generation and other sectors, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the media on Wednesday.
"The government was forced to increase the prices of diesel and kerosene due to the hike on the international market," she said while addressing a virtual press conference from her official Ganabhaban residence.
"How much can the government subsidise?" she said.
PM Hasina requested all to be more "rational" as there is a limit to government subsidies.
"We cannot use up all the money in the national budget to pay subsidies. That will lead to a halt on all developmental projects," she said.
"Fuel prices have increased on the international market. We have to buy fuel to meet our demands," she said, noting that of the Tk53,000 crore spent in subsidies, Tk23,000 crore goes to diesel alone.
"We are ensuring that people do not suffer. We are aware of our responsibilities towards the citizens. Necessary steps have been taken to keep the prices of market essentials under control. Efforts are in place to ensure food security," the premier added.
She said the government provides subsidies for power generation. Our farmers directly benefit from the government's cash assistance. It also gave cash aid to the marginalised population amid the Covid-19 pandemic, she added.
"But there's only so much that we can do."
Pointing at the people's tendency to evade taxes, she said everyone is trying to avoid paying taxes. "So, where will the money come from? Do we have to go bankrupt?"
The government is importing liquefied natural gas or LNG to tackle a gas crisis and is paying huge subsidies there as well, said Hasina.
Sheikh Hasina said the major feat of the COP26 is that heads of states and governments around the world agreed to further accelerate the climate funding process including allocation of $100 billion every year keeping consistency with the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
She described the adoption of the "Dhaka-Glasgow Declaration" in the COP26 conference as an outcome of playing a leading role by Bangladesh in the climate diplomacy.
At the just concluded COP26, Bangladesh joined hands with 99 other countries in cutting carbon emissions and thereby saving the planet from heating up 1.5 degrees over the pre-industrial age temperature. It pledged to cut carbon emissions by almost 90 million tonnes or 22% of carbon dioxide by 2030.
However, the country has targeted 41,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity production from the present 24,000MW by that same time period and most of it would come by burning fossil fuels like coal.
Replying to a question whether Bangladesh is able to carry out huge development work and cut down carbon emission at the same time, the premier said, "Of course, we have the capacity. While taking up projects, we are taking measures so that carbon emissions can be prevented.
"We are not responsible for carbon emission. Even then, we have kept provisions for industrial waste management as well as planting trees in all our projects. In other words, we are taking measures to prevent any kind of pollution."
The prime minister said the government has plans to build temperature controlled cargo villages to support foreign exports.
"Preservation facilities for raw hides will be improved. Initiatives will be taken for the development of the leather industry. Besides, we have plans to provide incentives for the youth working in the ICT sector.
"However, I don't know for how long I'll stay in power to complete these projects."
Regarding the violence and killing in the recent UP elections, the PM said, "Election-related violence has been greatly reduced in the history of Bangladesh. It is true that there was violence in union parishad elections before as well, but we do not want that to continue. No violence and no death of people after they go to exercise their franchise is ever acceptable."
The Awami League chief said her party will take stern action against the party men who took part in elections as rebel candidates.
She also pointed fingers at the BNP that has officially refrained from taking part in the ongoing union parishad elections, but, according to the prime minister, has been instigating violence.
Asked whether her government would take any special step for Khaleda Zia's treatment, PM Hasina said, "The government has done what it was supposed to do for the treatment of Khaleda Zia who is convicted in a corruption case. The rest is a matter of law."
The prime minister welcomed the recent public interest in seeking justice for the deaths and atrocities committed in the years of military rule following the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
"The families of the victims are still seeking justice, but have received little attention until now. They have endured an extended period of despair."
No action had been taken on the four murders carried out at BTV either, she said. "Until we can get justice for these crimes, our pain will not abate."
Hasina thanked those who had recently brought these issues into the limelight.
Hasina noted that 19 coups had followed Bangabandhu's assassination. The hangings, military trials, court-martials that followed led to the deaths of thousands, she said.
When asked about extrajudicial killings, the prime minister said, "These cases are being probed. Trials are being held.
"However, such incidents are happening all over the world, including the US."
In response to another question, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has advised the Bangladesh cricket team not to be disappointed even if they returned from the T20 World Cup after losing all their matches in the Super Twelve stage.
"Yes, what we expected did not happen. But I never make our boys feel disappointed. I tell them to play better, be more attentive, and practice more."
Stressing that Bangladeshi cricketers should be well prepared for the future, Sheikh Hasina said, "I want them to get more training so that they can play better."