BPC takes advantage of BERC's laxity
BERC (Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission) could not amend the petroleum regulations even after four months. Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) is doing the price coordination formula with the international market taking the opportunity of this laxity of the commission.
But in the inter-ministerial meeting (December 14, 2022) it was decided that BERC will determine the price of oil. In that meeting, it was decided to speedily approve the BERC regulations subject to amendment pending for a decade.
In that meeting, the then Senior Secretary of Energy and Mineral Resources Division gave his opinion on determining the price of oil and gas according to the international market price. The minutes of the meeting showed that after the opinion of the Secretary, BERC brought forward the model for determining the price of LP gas every month. The pricing of oil and gas is discussed according to the same model. If possible every 3 months re-fixation of rates is decided. For this, the need to change the draft regulations is highlighted.
BERC is supposed to fix the prices of all types of fuel as per the BERC Act. Although prices are fixed in the case of electricity and gas, prices are being fixed by executive order as the petroleum rules are not finalized. BERC submitted the approval of Petroleum Products Retail Tariff Regulations, 2012, Petroleum Products Storage Marketing and Distribution Regulations, 2012, and Petroleum Products Transport Tariff Regulations, 2012, but the ministry kept it on hold for a decade. According to the decision of the inter-ministerial meeting, the regulations were sent back to BERC for amendment in January.
When sent to BERC, the Abdul Jalil Commission was at the end of its term. The Jalil Commission left it for the new commission without taking up the task. Even if the new commission comes, it does not show much attention. Many regulations are in the freezer. According to Commission sources, Deputy Director (Tariff) Kamruzzaman has been given the responsibility; he is yet to prepare the draft.
BERC Member (Administration, Finance and Law) in reference to BPC's activities on the ground of BERC's delay. Muhammad Yamin Chowdhury's attention was drawn. He told Barta24.com that the price can be done by any organization. Whether BPC does it or we do it is not a big issue here.
Chairman of BERC Nurul Amin told Barta24.com, after I joined, I ordered to prepare the regulations in the light of the working papers of the ministry. But not presented till now. In response to the question of when it can be finalized, he said, we want to send it to the ministry by May.
Energy and Mineral Resources Division sources said that fuel oil will be sold and bought at the international market rate from next September. If the international market increases, it will increase, and if it decreases, it will decrease. Adjustments will be made every two or three months. It is only a matter for the government now, the terms of the IMF loan include withdrawal of subsidies so the government is very active.
BERC and BPC have been at loggerheads since the beginning on the issue of oil prices. BPC and the Ministry do not want to miss the issue. That is why regulations are suspended. Now when the opportunity has come forward it is going to be missed due to laxity of BERC.
Senior Vice Chairman of Cab Energy Affairs Advisor Shamsul Alam told Barta24.com that the BPC and the ministry have been illegally fixing oil prices for so long by hanging the regulations. They still want to hold onto it. And those assigned to BERC will not perform legal duties. He does not want to do it, he is working in obedience to the government. Public interest is being undermined, unscrupulous businessmen are looking after interests and nothing is going according to norms. Government takes dividends from companies.
A BERC official told Barta24.com, on condition of anonymity, that the regulations do not require much amendment. The ministry could have done what is supposed to be done, here only a line can be added that the price can be adjusted after two or three months. Basically, if the regulations submitted in 2012 come forward, the ministry will be embarrassed, hence this drama.
Last January, Additional Secretary of Energy and Mineral Resources Division, Khalek Mallick told Barta24.com that it has been decided to bring some additions to the regulations of BERC. BERC will also determine the price of fuel oil. In that light, it was decided to amend the draft regulations in the meeting.
BERC has been fixing LPG rates every month. Costs and commissions of importers have been finalized through public hearing. Now only the gas price fluctuates every month. That is, if the price increases in the international market, the product price increases, if it decreases, that part decreases. A similar approach is being considered for diesel petrol as well. Operating costs including shipping costs and import costs will be separated. Operating cost will remain unchanged and after 3 months the country's market price of fuel oil will be more or less in line with the international market rate. It has been decided to finalize the pending BERC regulations with amendments so that BERC can function within the legal framework.
State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said, we are thinking about opening the fuel oil market. There can be private companies as well as government companies. Trying to figure out a method, if the price increases in the international market, it will increase in the country, and if it decreases, it will decrease in the country. The government no longer wants to subsidize fuel oil.
According to BPC data, the demand for fuel oil in the country was 62 lakh 99 thousand 730 metric tons in the financial year 2020-21. Sector basis fuel has been used the most in the transport sector, 39 lakh 63 thousand 725 metric tons equal to 62.92 percent were used in that financial year. Next, there is 9 lakh 75 thousand 604 metric tons in the agriculture sector; the demand in the electricity sector was 6 lakh 52 thousand 66 metric tons. While 4 lakh 50 thousand 437 metric tons in industry; 97 thousand 600 tons in households and 1 lakh 60 thousand 298 metric tons in other sectors.