The decision by Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) to go for a hike in the prices of gas and electricity should have been clearly and wisely thought through. The reason why that ought to have been the case has nothing to do with emotion or sentiment. But it has everything to do with the objective realities before us. And those objective realities are fundamentally the thought that energy prices, along with production costs, have been falling all across the globe, with the happy result that consumers today pay less than what they used to. It is a reality one spots everywhere. Everywhere except Bangladesh, where inexplicably it is the reverse that has occurred. Citizens are now being asked to pay more for commodities for which logically they should be paying less than before. The irony is that the authorities, even as they promise a brighter future for consumers of such facilities as electricity, have not cared to explain the underlying reasons or motivation behind this unexpected and unrealistic rise in prices.
The ramifications of the decision have been natural. Many, even some leaders from the ruling Awami League have flayed the decision as unjustified and has demanded that the government reconsider its move. Political leaders and parties across the spectrum as well as citizens? bodies have correctly protested the move, given the absolute absence of any rationale behind such an increase in prices. An observation of the power sector reveals the fact that due to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina?s personal initiatives of late and for the past many months, even years, instances of power outages or load-shedding, in that euphemistical use of the term, have been few and far between. The authorities cannot, therefore, argue that there is a logical need to go for a price hike. And, yes, the realities on a global scale have already been noted.
If the question relates to a need to fill any gap caused by subsidies in the field of electricity by a raising of prices, that still does not justify the decision because of the widening distribution network in the country. At the same time, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has constantly been reassuring the nation that in an age of digitalization electricity will reach every home in the country, it is beyond one?s understanding why such a regressive move of upping prices, especially in the field of electricity, has been made. And let the fact not be ignored that a rise in the price of electricity will have a definite chain effect on other products in the markets, compelling consumers into buying them at higher prices. The decision to raise power and gas prices makes for poor economic sense and those who were instrumental in influencing the decision or making it should have realized the popular discontent towards the government that would be generated by it.
One does not require much wisdom to understand that the people?s supports to governments everywhere are dependent on a rise and fall in the prices of the goods and services citizens need on a day to day basis. Even as we write, reports of how rising prices in Russia are making a dent in the popularity of a supposedly unassailable President Vladimir Putin hint broadly at the truth that beyond and away from politics, it is life as it is lived every day which matters to citizens. When life is made difficult by unwise government moves, when the feeling grows that policy makers and decision makers are insensitive to issues of public welfare, it is governance which suffers ?- and badly at that.
Let the authorities reconsider the price rise in the electricity sector in the larger national interest. It is, after all, a democratic government which is in charge today. Arbitrary action on its part, on any issue, is therefore to be avoided scrupulously.
It is now Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has proved in the past that she always care for the welfare of the people, can give relief to the common people by asking the relevent authorities to review the price rise in the energy sector.