Raising petroleum and gas prices every now and then has become a joke and cruel one at that. The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), in a meeting chaired by Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh, has approved the renewal of gas prices agreement between the Qadirpur Joint Venture and the SNGPL putting an additional burden of Rs 200 billion on consumers. As a result, the gas price would go up sharply with the advent of 2013. Under this agreement, the government has increased the rate of high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) from $200 to $400 per ton. This harsh measure would take effect in July next year.

On the other side, OGRA has submitted a summary for increase in gas prices effective from coming January. It seems that the government is least pushed about the additional burden on the common man whose life has already been made miserable by the high rate of inflation, including frequent increases in gas and oil prices. Had the government realized its responsibility in time, exploration of new gas wells would have long been undertaken. It is painful to learn that since 2005 no new drilling rig has been purchased due to which the exploration task could not be undertaken. Had the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project not run into snags, the situation in 2013 would have been entirely different. The question is who is responsible for this criminal neglect?