This year’s budget was promised to be one filled with hardships for the average citizen; rising inflation, the stringent conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the devaluation of the currency meant that the 200 percent increase in the gas tariff was accepted without too many complaints. However, only 40 days have passed since the government increased the gas tariff by this exorbitant amount, and now there are reports of yet another increase announced on Friday. The increases are not across-the-board, but the trend to charge industries more will only lead to a further reduction in the already dwindling stock of exports currently being sold by the country.

The government has given itself some relief from the hike included in the budget by decreasing the tariff for government, semi-government offices and hospitals by 17 percent. This would be acceptable under normal circumstances, but a closer reading of the reductions granted by the government to its own departments reveals that even official guesthouses and armed forces messes have a reduced rate now compared to the budget, which goes against the state’s promise of suffering through the hardships together. Are official guesthouses somehow more important than industries that export goods such as textiles and sporting commodities?

How will the economy stabilise if the industries that stand to help it grow the most are made uncompetitive in the international markets through more increased costs? Instead of looking to control the rapid inflation of goods and services in the country, the government is currently only making things much worse for both industries and the average consumer; the decision to not increase prices for domestic users of gas is of no use, because all goods produced in the country are likely to see a price increase as a result of a rising cost of production regardless. The government’s claims of looking to spare the public from the worst aspects of the economic crisis are meaningless; the reality is that the state is hoping that the indirect increases will go unnoticed.

The Petroleum Division claims that this increase in gas charges was supposed to take place when prices rose in June, however, this was not done so due to some issues in communication. If we take this claim at face value, the incompetence of the Petroleum Division is clear for all to see. However, while incompetence is indeed rampant in many government departments, the 40-day delay in this case is indicative of an attempt to stagger unpopular decisions, so that they seem more palatable. Sadly, the increase is still hard to digest and the government needs to start answering some questions of exactly where it will draw the line on these unilateral price hikes.