The world is in a grip of economic recession due to slow industrial growth in some developed countries, causing oil prices to fall below $60 per barrel. Oil was available at $60 per barrel four and half years ago, but the recent cut has broughta pleasant change in various economies where expensive oil was a major cause of balance of payment problem, maintenance of foreign exchange reserves and resolution of debt crisis.
Many governments of the world, including Pakistan, have rationalised oil prices. However, the full benefits of low oil prices have not reached the common man in Pakistan despite cut in oil prices twice in the recent months.Probably, that is the reason Muzammil Hussain Sbari, the president of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), has drawn the attention of the government to pass full benefits of the dwindling oil prices on consumers. Ironically, the government wastes no time to raise electricity tariff, transport fairs and prices of edible items whenever oil prices go up, but the oil prices have now tumbled down more than 45 percent and the government is seeking one excuse or the other to avoid rationalisationof the general price index.
The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) had approved reduction in electricity tariff, but the government reportedly withheld Re 0.60 per unit out of Rs 2.97 per unit reduction for the consumers of nine distribution companies.The people were expecting 20 percent reduction in the power tariffs.Thecut in the power bills was approved under the automatic monthly fuel price adjustment for November and the consumers would have a relief of 49 paisa per unit due to proportionate cut in the general sales tax. However, the governmenthas unfairly decided to deduct Re 0.60 per unit for debt servicing, minimizing the benefits for general public.
At a time when the world is reaping the benefits of declining oil prices, very little change is seen on the price index of edible commodities, transport fares andother consumer items in Pakistan.
Earlier, the government was under pressure from the sit-ins and protest demonstrations by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek. Now both the parties have decided to cooperate with the government on the issue of national security and the government may have to look for another excuse to keep the people under pressure.