Oil prices: NA panel opposes ECC decision on weekly revision

Calls for restoring old system of monthly price determination.


Our Correspondent August 08, 2012

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel has opposed the decision of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to review oil prices every week and called for restoring the old system of monthly revision to discourage profiteering and hoarding of petroleum products.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources, in a meeting chaired by Engineer Tariq Khattak here on Wednesday, criticised the petroleum ministry for switching to the weekly oil price revision, saying it would add to the woes of consumers.

“We strongly recommend that the government should take back this decision and revert to monthly price determination, which will help avert shortage of oil,” the committee chairman said.

Committee member Asghar Ali Jutt stressed that the government had adopted a flawed mechanism, which would cause more problems to the people. Barjees Tahir, another member, pointed out that the petroleum ministry had assured in the last meeting that it would take measures to curb hoarding of oil before revising prices, but now the government adopted a more flawed mechanism.

Criticising the adviser to PM on petroleum for ignoring the panel’s recommendations, he said the committee had demanded withdrawal of the previous increase in oil prices, but no action was taken.

Panel Chairman Tariq Khattak reminded both the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that their agenda was to protect and facilitate the consumers. Keeping that in view, the government should provide relief to the people by reducing oil prices.

Relocation of CNG stations

Two members of the panel – Barjees Tahir and Rana Afzal – opposed the relocation of compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, saying the country was facing a gas crisis and no relocation should be allowed. However, the panel, as a whole, called for implementing the relocation policy.

Supporting the argument, the chairman said people had made investments following the government’s policy and it was their basic right to get the stations relocated in line with the policy.

He blamed the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) for delaying implementation of the policy, given by the prime minister in October 2011.

In response, Ogra Chairman Saeed Khan said Ogra was obliged to grant licences and allow relocation of sites in 65 cases, but an inquiry initiated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) stalled the whole process. After the probe, he said Ogra decided to stop the process until the dust settled down.

Keeping in view the energy crisis, Khan said Ogra had sent a summary to the federal government to seek guidelines. The petroleum ministry too sent a summary to the prime minister, who then referred the matter to the cabinet committee on energy.

He pointed out that an exercise to verify credentials of Ogra officers was under way and so far one fake degree holder had been identified.

Committee member Jamshed Dasti blamed Ogra for using the directive of the prime minister, who called for granting CNG licences to a few favoured people, to its benefit as it issued licences for 400 CNG stations illegally. The premier should also be questioned in the matter.

“Former Ogra chairman Tauqeer Sadiq is a relative of PPP’s Jehangir Badar, that’s why NAB is not arresting him,” he alleged and suggested that the NAB chairman should be summoned.

Petroleum Ministry’s Additional Secretary Abid Saeed told the panel that the ministry had sent a summary with recommendations of the committee to the prime minister, asking him to withdraw the increase in oil prices.

Lack of cooperation

Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Managing Director Arif Hameed told the panel that the Punjab police was not cooperating with the company in efforts to curb gas theft. “In the province, 310 cases of gas theft have been registered over the last five months, but police has taken no action,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2012.

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