There looks to be no stopping the exponential and uncontrolled rise in gas prices in the country. From a 143 per cent increase in September 2018 to an additional 191 per cent in July this year, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) has now proposed that the government should increase prices for certain sections of domestic consumers up to 221 per cent from January next year.

This aggressive pricing policy is not friendly to the general population. The current practice of passing on the burden of revenue shortfall on to the final consumer is neither equitable nor sustainable. Consumers are not responsible for how utility corporations are run. State-run commodity providers have a responsibility beyond merely balancing the books or turning over a profit. These frequent adjustments are only heading in the upward direction, and the use of gas in homes for both cooking and warmth in the cold weather means that OGRA will be directly slicing off a big chunk off the average consumer’s purchasing power.

Everything from tandoors – that essentially enable the poorest in the country to feed themselves – to domestic consumption will be adversely affected. Irresponsible changes to the pricing structure of necessary commodities will lead to exacerbating the problem of inflation, which has already increased beyond acceptable levels in recent times. Basic amenities must be affordable for all. At the rate at which prices continue to increase, this may no longer be the case in the very near future.

OGRA’s stated reason for this is to hit its own revenue targets; however, the cost of an essential commodity cannot be decided strictly through business decisions only. This is where the government must step in and look to find a middle ground. If the Sui companies need an additional increase in price, the government must first look to keep the burden on domestic consumers to a minimum, following which it must look at options other than a blanket increase in prices wherever possible.

The government understands this all too well; leaders of the ruling party including the Prime Minister himself have come out often and allayed the concerns of the public over rising prices. Surely the government understands that a six-monthly pause before another belt-tightening price increase will all but ensure that the average individual is adversely affected by the economic problems of the government. It is hoped that better sense prevails and this recommendation by OGRA is rejected immediately.