Blame game on petro price hike on

Kathmandu, October 27:

Economists, experts and political leaders blamed each other and urged Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) and government to adopt alternative ways instead of hiking petro prices, speaking at the Reporters’ Club in the valley today.

Dinanath Sharma, a senior Maoists leader, blamed government for lobbying for the petro price hike because, according to him, some of the ministers themselves are involved in petroleum products’ business. “The ministers’ themselves own petrol pumps, that’s why they are lobbying for price hike,” he said adding that the rampant corruption in NOC and adulteration must be checked immediately to provide people cheap and smooth supply of petroleum products.

“Nepali institutions have a record of being bankrupt one after another, whereas the staff and management people of the same company get richer and richer day by day,” Sharma said citing the example of Sajha Yatayat.

“Unlike price hike in other products, petro price hike pushes market prices up,” Sharma said adding that Rs 200 hike in a cylinder of a cooking gas — that costs only Rs 450 to Rs 500 in India — hits the society hard.

Prof Dr Bishwambher Pyakurel, a prominent economist, agreed with Sharma that the price hike in petroleum products hits all other goods. “About 66 per cent of the hard-earned foreign currency by the Nepalis and sent home as remittance is spent on buying Indian Currency (IC), according to till last month’s figure,” Prof Pyakurel said adding that current account deficit is increasing, which is not a good sign for national economy. “After Nepal adopted free market economy role of private sectors has increased and role of government has decreased, which is obvious but consumers did not get any benefit,” he said, “Which is against the free market economy’s norms.”

Jyoti Baniya, president of Consumers’ Forum, on the occasion, blamed the petroleum dealers for carteling. “Consumers are in the receiving end as there is no Consumers’ Right in Nepal. All the players; government, dealers

and NOC are cheating consumers,” he said adding that government gets tax, dealers get commission and NOC gets administrative cost making the hole in consumers pocket.

However, Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat, former minister said that NOC must be practical and let the market decide prices. “Government cannot give subsidy to ‘the comparatively’ rich people,” he said adding that tax is used for the development activities.

Dr Pusparaj Raj Karnikar, member of National Planning Commission, stressed on the need of administrative reforms in the NOC and effective inspection of adulteration and administrative reforms both.

Similarly, Shiva Prasad Ghimire, president of Nepal Petroleum Dealers’ Association, clarified the way retail prices are calculated and Digamber Jha, managing director of NOC said that NOC is still incurring losses after the price hike.