India planning to hike petro-prices soon

New Delhi, February 20:

A decision on hiking the prices of petroleum products — petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene — is expected next week, petroleum minister Murli Deora indicated here today.

“I will be meeting prime minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P Chidambaram to discuss a whole gamut of issues relating to the prices of petroleum products as suggested by the Rangarajan committee,” Deora told reporters on the sidelines of the 4th Asia Gas Partnership Summit organised by GAIL (India) Ltd. Also on the agenda would be excise and custom duties.

The panel headed by prime minister’s economic advisory committee chairman C Rangarajan had suggested specific duties for petroleum products. It had also recommended an increase in petrol and diesel as well as LPG cylinders by Rs 75 Indian Currency (IC) to reduce the subsidy burden on state-owned companies.

The committee in its report last week had suggested alternative methods to ease the burden on oil companies and help the government share a greater burden of the subsidies without impacting its revenues.

In his address, Deora underlined the need to raise domestic natural gas production through vigorous exploration and production efforts, securing new liquefied natural gas sources and creating the requisite infrastructure to bring maturity to the Indian gas market. With demand for gas expected to rise substantially over the next decade, the minister said the government was fully alive to the challenge and had devised a multi-pronged strategy to increase availability from domestic sources as well as imports.

“A regulator for the petroleum and natural gas sector and a natural gas pipeline policy are likely to be in place possibly this year, providing a non-discriminatory and transparent platform.” Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said there was need to evolve a rational pricing policy for the natural gas sector instead of the current dual pricing structure as it was creating an additional demand for gas provided by government at controlled rates.