There has been a massive hike in the prices of all kinds of fuel, with the result that petrol will go up by Rs 4.64 per litre to Rs 109.14 per litre, while diesel has gone up Rs 2.50 to Rs 112.26 per litre and kerosene to Rs 105.99 per litre after a rise of Rs 4.71 per litre. This will not only make it more expensive to move people, as transport fares go up, but also it will add to overall inflation because the price hike will also force up the fares of goods transport. Though the recommendation to raise the fuel price was duly made by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, and duly approved by the Petroleum Ministry, there are still questions raised.

The first is about the anxiety of the present government to raise fuel prices. Since it has taken office, it has religiously raised the prices, making the excuse of similar trends in international prices. It has not made any effort to provide any relief to the common man, who has been crushed by previous hikes, not to mention the inflation caused by them. Since that inflation has affected the price of food items, which have to be transported, whether raw or processed, domestically grown or imported, the common man has already been forced to take food off the table, and will only be forced further. Instead of bringing some relief, the present government, which took office because it campaigned against the previous government’s failure to control inflation, has continued the same policies of further crushing the poor.

An aspect that deserves proper examination is that of how the international price is translated into the local market. There should not be a process which allows oil companies to make money from the sufferings of the ordinary Pakistani. The examination of how the price of purchase is translated into the price of sale must be examined, so that the present pricing formula is further refined, and the exploitation of the common man ended.

The mechanism must also be further explored, to ensure that any decreases in price on the international market, as soon as they occur, are made available to the consumer, and there is no use of the capital development surcharge to bridge the budget deficit. The government must look on the domestic oil price as a trust to be managed, not an opportunity to be milked for cash. The present oil crisis has lasted for several years now, and the gradual reduction of CNG has meant more oil has to be imported. The government may be working on the revival of the economy, but it would do well to remember that fuelling the economy must be done as cheaply as possible, so that the interests of everyone are protected, not solely those of the oil companies.