The first days of every month are a frightening time for people belonging to the low- and middle-income groups, in particular. That’s when utility bills start landing on doormats. What adds to the wallet woes of poor consumers is the revision in petroleum prices that too happens every month. While each of the last few months has brought about a raise in one utility bill or the other, the last two monthly fuel price assessments have also cost the consumer’s pocket dear. The raise for the month of April – Rs6 per litre both for petrol and high speed diesel – does speak of the typical callousness of the ruling class at dealing with the masses. At Rs98.89 a litre, the new rate of petrol – mostly consumed by public and private vehicles – has come too close to the three-figure mark. And high speed diesel, mostly used to run heavy machinery, will now be available at Rs117. 43 per litre.
Like its predecessors, the PTI-led government is also resorting to age-old tactics of squeezing poor consumers dry to shore up its fast-depleting coffers. Taxes and levies imposed on petroleum products are one of the biggest sources of revenue for the government which profusely utilises them to bridge revenue shortfalls and make up for their very own bad management and misgovernance.
That a rise in prices of petroleum products triggers a general price hike merits no debate. It impacts almost everything from the cost of inputs to outputs such as goods and services to even power generation — with the impact on the last mentioned is feared to reflect in power bills a few months down the line in another added burden for the masses. Coupled with the increase in interest rates by the central bank, the rising prices of petroleum products is bound to hit the businesses hard and result in further shrinking of the national economy.
Even though the government claims to be one gunning for change, trying to undo the mistakes of past regimes, it has yet to prove that in its fiscal management of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2019.
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