State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Nasrul Hamid, has assured consumers the government will not increase gas and electricity prices at a rate that will be a burden for the people.
"Our main goal is to keep fuel prices affordable, either by providing subsidies or through price adjustments," said Nasrul Hamid at a citizens' meeting organised by Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) at the National Press Club on Thursday.
"The global context has challenged Bangladesh's energy economy. The prices of fuel oil and gas are gradually increasing all over the world," said Nasrul Hamid, adding that, "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will try to keep energy prices affordable. It will not be a burden for the people."
Right now, separate proposals to increase the price of gas 117% and electricity price by 66%, relative to current prices are under scrutiny of the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC), the tariff regulator for gas and electricity.
Earlier, BERC's technical evaluation committee recommended increasing the price of gas 20% and the price of electricity 58%, at public hearings held in March and May respectively.
At yesterday's citizens' meeting, CAB Senior Vice-president, Professor Dr Shamsul Alam, proposed meeting the deficit in gas and electricity revenues without hiking prices.
Dr Shamsul Alam said distribution and transmission company proposals for price hikes are unjustifiable as their accumulated net profit so far is about Tk14,395 crore, where around 63 million cubic feet of gas is stolen every day.
"Hiking prices or giving subsidies will be unnecessary if the authorities can prevent electricity theft, waste of resources, and tax at source. Indeed, with adopting such measures there will be scope for reducing gas and electricity prices," he said.
In response to CAB's proposal, Nasrul Hamid said, "We are subsidising a large number of people who do not have the capacity to pay for electricity, but I do not consider it subsidy. I see it as an investment because they can use this money for their own development."
The state minister for energy also called for more constructive criticism and proposals from CAB for improving customer experience.
At yesterday's programme, CAB President Golam Rahman said, "A lot of money can be saved If the cost of energy imports and production are kept at a reasonable level. In the case of fuel, there is an import dependency. If we cannot get rid of this tendency, the crisis will continue."
He said, "Inflation has not occurred in our country as it has happened in the USA. The main reason for this is that the administration fixes the price of products like electricity. If energy prices go up, people's anger can spread like wild fire."
CAB General Secretary Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, Architect Mobasher Hossain, Professor Tanjim Uddin Khan of the International Relations Department of Dhaka University, and Professor MM Akash, participated in the discussion.
At the programme, Dhaka University Professor Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan presented the keynote paper on the "Bangladesh Energy Transformation Policy (Proposed)".