LAHORE: Commuters welcomed the caretaker government’s decision to lower prices of petrol after the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) took notice of the sudden rise in oil prices and taxes last week.
The government decreased petrol price by Rs4.26 per litre, high-speed diesel by Rs6.37 per litre, kerosene oil by Rs3.36 per litre and light diesel by Rs5.54 per litre.
An accountant, Faisal Hameed, said successive rulers in Pakistan have been using debt and taxes on petroleum products to finance their princely spending.
He said the tax administration in Pakistan has failed to broaden the tax base. They find it easy to tighten the noose around existing taxpayers by imposing indirect taxes to meet their unrealistic revenue targets, he lamented.
Although on the direction of the apex court, the government has cut taxes on petroleum products, it is not a permanent solution to this chronic issue. “Why the apex court has to intervene every time the government revises oil prices or taxes? Earlier, the court barred the government to collect heavy tax on mobile telecom service and now the court has to direct the government to revise oil price,” he said.
He added that in a democratic system it is politicians’ jobs to develop a fair and transparent system of taxation in the country. A salesman named Naeem Qureshi said a little increase in petrol price badly hurt his business as it increases the cost of doing business.
Consecutive increases in petrol prices in recent months have already increased his business cost by almost 30 per cent, he said. “Although, we always try to pass on the maximum burden to customers but practically it is not possible to transfer the complete impact, which resulted in we have to adjust our margin and bear the burden partially.”
A housewife, Mrs Zubair, said the driver of her children’s school van has already warned them that he will increase his van fare by Rs500 per child. “Though summer vacations are still on school van driver, who came to collect his monthly, informed her that he will increase the fare by Rs500 after summer vacations owing to increase in fuel price,” she shared.
She said though the government has revised petrol prices downward commodity prices which have been increased during last week cannot be brought down. The court should also look into this as the government has failed to resolve the basic problems of masses, she maintained.
On June 30, the interim federal government, on the recommendation of oil and gas regulator, had increased petrol price by Rs7.54 per litre, high-speed diesel by Rs14.00 per litre, kerosene oil by Rs3.36 per litre and light diesel by Rs5.92 per litre.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of a sudden increase in oil price and sought an explanation from the caretaker government about the increase in petroleum products’ prices.
He ordered the government to bring down oil prices by adjusting taxes on petroleum products and provide relief to masses.
During a hearing on Sunday on increase in petroleum products prices, a three-judge bench of the SCP, headed by the CJP Mian Saqib Nisar remarked that raising petroleum prices is not a way for the government to make money.
To meet the national requirement, the CJP said, 85 per cent of fuel is imported. He asked Pakistan State Oil (PSO) managing director whether there was any truth in statements that claimed the country is getting oil from the Saudi Arabia on loan. The PSO managing director replied that they used to get oil on loan from Saudi Arabia in the past but now this facility has been stopped.
The CJP said: “We need oil at the cheapest possible price. Why oil was being imported through middlemen. These middlemen take commissions on these transactions.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2018.