Parliament has codified the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (Amendment) Bill 2022, which will give the executive discretionary powers to change electricity and energy prices whenever necessary.
The bill is already in effect as an ordinance in this regard was promulgated on Dec 1 last year.
The necessity for amending the existing law was felt when the government’s move to raise fuel prices in August last year was challenged in the higher courts.
Only the Energy Regulatory Commission, or BERC, had the powers to adjust energy prices following a process set by the law.
BERC, an autonomous institution of the state, protocol dictates that it must consult with stakeholders at open public hearings before adjusting electricity and energy prices.
Any ordinance promulgated when the House is not in session needs to be ratified by the parliament as soon as the next session commences.
In accordance with the protocol, Law Minister Anisul Huq tabled the bill in parliament on Jan 5.
State Minister for Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid put the bill up for a vote on Sunday and it was passed subsequently.
A little parliamentary drama preceded the ratification of the bill as MP Mokobbir Khan, leader of Gono Forum, walked out of the House in protest at the government's move of not taking his proposal in regards to the bill into account.
When the bill was tabled earlier this month, Mokobbir proposed to gauge public opinion before codifying the bill into law.
“This bill is being passed against people’s interest. My proposal to gauge public opinion was not considered. I am withdrawing my proposal and walking out to protest this bill,” he said before leaving the assembly floor.
RENTAL POWER PRICE BLAMED FOR ENERGY PRICE HIKES
Arguing in favour of his proposal, Gono Forum’s Mokobbir said energy prices had been raised at least 11 times in the last 14 years due to corruption and unchecked, unregulated capacity charges of quick rental power projects.
Terming the bill anti-public, he said: “Electricity price hike affects everything. But it seems the government doesn’t care. Any government which doesn’t have a people’s mandate resorts to codifying law against the general public’s interest. The sole purpose of ramming the bill through is to raise electricity and energy prices whenever the government wants, protecting the businessmen’s interest.”
The veteran leader also said people are grasping for the last straws with the rising cost of living precipitated by the raises.
Jatiya Party’s Fakhrul Imam joined the chorus, saying quick rental projects were the sole reason for the people struggling to cope with rising electricity prices.
Defending the bill, Nasrul said the government's subsidy towards the electricity sector is an “investment in people”.
“Quick rental power scheme is a temporary solution. Let’s say you enter into a contract with a landlord to rent a property for ten years, and you can't argue with the landlord to charge you only for the months you will stay at the property. As long as the lease is under your name, you gotta keep paying,” he said.