Energy expert Professor M Tamim says there is no doubt about the lack of transparency and accountability in the activities of Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC).
"BPC never makes clear how much they receive in subsidies and what profit they make. It is incumbent that they make their operations open and accountable to the public. There is a failure of leadership on their part in achieving energy self-sufficiency in the country," he said, addressing a shadow parliament concerning the legitimacy of energy price increases.
Debate for Democracy arranged the shadow parliament and a debate on rising energy prices at the Bangladesh Film Development Corporation (BFDC) auditorium in the city on Friday.
As chief guest, M Tamim, also a former caretaker government adviser, said, "200 million cubic feet of gas has been stolen daily in Bangladesh. If this theft could be stopped, there would be no need to buy gas from the spot market at a higher price. The capacity charge and costs of contract renewal with power generating companies should also be waived now."
Noting that the current indemnity in the energy sector is not justifiable, the energy expert said, "Indemnity could be given in times of emergency. The indemnity that was given in the past for the energy sector is not needed now."
He said, "Bangladesh still lags behind significantly in exploring coal and gas fields. We have to ensure proper and economic utilisation of internal resources for achieving self-sufficiency in energy. Besides, ensuring good governance in energy management by preventing wastage is much needed."
M Tamim said, "The government is not very proactive in saving energy. A diesel price hike of 23%, prompting a 28% rise in transportation costs is causing inflation in the country. We are now in an energy crisis. To overcome this situation, the energy sector needs to be subsidized to keep the country's economy alive."
Debate for Democracy Chairman Hassan Ahamed Chowdhury Kiron, who presided over the event, said before raising the price of fuel oil, gas and electricity, indemnity in the energy and power sector, bank robbery in the name of loans and system loss of electricity should be stopped. Siphoning off money and corruption in mega projects should also be curbed before raising the price.
In the last 12 years, the government has increased the price of water 14 times, electricity 12 times, and gas nine times.
He said, in the public interest, the government should prioritise a balance between the two – the challenge of giving subsidies on the one hand and increasing the price on the other. Actually, an accountable system is needed, where the government will set the price of fuel oil, electricity, and gas, involving citizens and taking into account the opinion of experts.
In many cases the statements of consumers at public hearings were not taken into account, to the disappointment of citizens, he added.
Debaters of Dhaka International University representing the government won in the shadow parliament debate, "Rising prices in the country are reasonable considering global fuel price rise," defeating opposition debaters from Stamford University Bangladesh.