A commendable decision | Daily News

A commendable decision

The decision by the Government to put the skids on the demand to raise LP Gas prices by the two Gas companies should be commended, at a time when people are undergoing hardships due to the pandemic.

The Cabinet Sub Committee appointed to evaluate LP Gas prices has decided that there should be no increase in the prices of domestic Gas cylinders. Both companies had requested an increase of around Rs. 700 per 12.5 kg cylinder.

Given the enormity of the increase there is no denying what this will do to the already runaway Cost of Living where the prices of all essential consumer items have shot through the roof. Indeed the price increase as it stands could not be justified even under normal circumstances.

The demanded price hike is almost the takings of a daily wage earner, or, for that matter, even the computed daily pay of a salaried employee in the present day. Given that a gas cylinder is used for one month he or she will have to devote one day’s pay for the increase alone which is unacceptable in these trying times.

Therefore the Government should resist any demands for a Gas price hike even after the pandemic is brought under control since the price hike demanded is beyond all proportion. We say this because earlier LP Gas price increases amounted to just Rs.100 or 200 and never climbed to such a figure as presently demanded.

There is also the sleight of hand practised by the Gas companies in reducing the 12.5 kg quantum of a cylinder by as much as 3 kg and hoodwinking the public by offering a sop of a Rs.100 price reduction, thereby cheating the consumers .The matter is now before the Courts although it is not yet clear what action the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) has taken in this regard.

The demand for an unconscionable price increase of domestic Gas – which the suggested price hike undoubtedly is – could not be justified under any circumstances. If the companies are undergoing a loss the Government should step to protect the consumer at least by subsidizing them.

LP Gas is no longer a luxury item in Sri Lankan homes but an essential requirement and a major domestic fixture such as the refrigerator and the television set. Come to that even the ordinary ‘buth kadey’ uses Gas for cooking and it needs no extraordinary imagination as to what a price increase would do to the ordinary man’s lunch packet, which already costs around Rs.150.

Ditto for all other items that rely on Gas for their production. Worse, the consumer is bound to be hit in other ways too, for instance by having to fork out additional fare that is disproportionate to the real increase as is always the case when price increases are effected.

Hence the Government ought to be firm in its decision not to permit a Gas price increase – certainly not the hike demanded – even under normal circumstances, as already mentioned. It should certainly give a thought to the present travails experienced by the larger populace who had lost their means of livelihoods and the shrinking of incomes of even the salaried employees. On top of this Bank interests, on which retirees and senior citizens depend for their survival, have almost been halved, throwing these folk to the deep end. How a gas price increase which will have a domino effect on the prices of all essential items will tell on them indeed, needs no mention.

Presently, taking cover under the pandemic situation, traders are having a field day jacking up prices at will. Even Supermarkets engaged in delivery services have raised prices by as much as 30 percent, according to a newspaper report. The public are left with no option but to pay up, given the dire situation they are placed in due to the lockdowns. The CAA, which is headed by a retired Major General, should take a more proactive role in this regard if it is truly to live by its nomenclature. Traders should not be allowed to exploit the public under the cover of the health emergency. Even imported items are sold well beyond proportion with the public having no option but to succumb.

True, the Government is preoccupied with having to deal with a deadly pandemic and this has held the unscrupulous traders in good stead foisting even substandard goods on the public as can be seen from the large hoards of goods unfit for consumption being detected in the recent past from warehouses.

This phenomenon too should engage the attention of the CAA whose heavy hand is required today more than at any other time. The public have enough on their plate without having to be forced fed substandard food and pay through their noses for essential items. It is time that a special police unit is formed to nab traders fleecing the public by overcharging or foisting questionable food items on the public. The pandemic should not blind the authorities to the shenanigans taking place elsewhere.


Add new comment