‘Unprecedented’ fuel price hike gives Bangladeshis a sudden jolt

Customers are saying they have been unable to purchase fuel despite visiting several stations

Senior Correspondent
Published : 6 August 2022, 06:20 AM
Updated : 6 August 2022, 06:20 AM

Cars and motorcycles have formed long lines at petrol pumps after the government announced the biggest jump in fuel prices, but many customers say they have been unable to purchase fuels even after visits to several filling stations.

There are few buses on the road. Cars formed a long queue to buy CNG at the Malibagh intersection filling station.

Crowds were waiting for buses at intersections in Rampura, Mouchak, Malibagh and Kakrail, but the capital is relatively well off – most of its buses run on CNG, not oil.

Still, the reaction of Dhaka residents to the ‘sudden’ hike in fuel price has been sharp.

“The hike in fuel prices is unprecedented,” said Hafizur Rahman, a commuter headed to Mohakhali, who expressed his anger at the decision. “What will happen to the price of goods now? The price of everything is already high.”

“Now that fuel prices have risen, so will the fares charged by buses, launches and trucks. Car owners and motorcyclists will see costs go up, as will farmers. Prices will rise across the board.”

As Bangladesh announced the price increase on Friday night, motorcyclists rushed to the gas stations to buy fuel before the new rates took effect, triggering chaos at the pumps.

The prices of diesel and kerosene were increased by 42.5 percent to Tk 114 per litre. Petrol prices were fixed at Tk 130 a litre, a 51.16 percent jump, while octane prices rose 51.68 percent to Tk 135.

Last November, the government raised the price of diesel and kerosene by Tk 15 to Tk 80 per litre. Afterwards, bus prices rose nearly 27 percent, much higher than the corresponding jump in fuel prices. Similarly, launch prices went up by 35 percent.

“It used to be Tk 200 for a trip from Kakrail to Gulshan,” said motorcycle passenger Asaduzzaman. “Now they are asking for Tk 300. What’s the reason? The price of fuel went up overnight.”

“Lower-income workers are facing great difficulties. We are under stress and in danger. It is too much.”

“Many long-haul buses run on diesel and will raise their prices,” said bus driver Shefat Ullah, who was bound for Cumilla. “The price hike will create difficulties for us.”

“All trucks and covered vans run on diesel. They are freight vehicles. As such, the price of everything on the market will go up.”

Modhu Sudhan Mandal, who works at a private company in Kakrail, said: “On the one hand, the government is asking people to be thrifty and frugal and, on the other, it raises the prices of fuel and puts the lives and livelihoods of people at risk.”

PUBLIC TRANSPORT SCARCE

The hike in diesel prices is having a notable effect on public transport in the capital, with fewer vehicles running on Dhaka’s various routes on Saturday and fewer long-haul buses setting off. The situation is piling on more difficulties for common people.

But the BRTC says that its buses will still be running nationwide.

The BRTA is set to meet with transport owners to discuss the corresponding hike in fares.

Ramesh Chandra Ghosh, chairman of the Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners Association, says fewer inter-district buses have left the Gabtali bus terminal on Saturday after the fuel price was raised, but that the association had not given any orders on the matter.

“We haven’t instructed anyone to do anything,” he said on Saturday. “Those who thought it was okay to do so operated their vehicles. Those who believed they would be unable to afford it didn’t.”

He said that only a few buses – five of 25 – had left the Gabtali bus terminal this morning. Customers were being informed of the price hike and buses set off once they agreed to a higher price.

Many buses were unable to refuel after midnight and are not running, said KM Rafiqul Islam, managing director of Projapati Paribahan, which runs buses from Dhaka’s Mohammadpur to Abdullahpur.

“We haven’t given any orders to stop running buses, but many pumps were not selling oil last night and so the buses have been unable to run.”

Transport owners will meet with the BRTA at 5 pm on Saturday to discuss hiking bus fares, said Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association.

WITHDRAW PRICE HIKE: ASSOCIATION

The Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh has condemned the government’s sudden hike in fuel price and demanded its withdrawal, saying it would overwhelm people already struggling with rising inflation.

Raising fuel prices by about 50 percent will bring great suffering to the livelihoods of the people of the nation, the organisation’s Secretary General Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury said in a statement.

In addition to doubling transport cost, it would make necessities too expensive for common people and give rise to unrest in the transport sector, the statement said.

It will hinder production and increase dependence on imports, the PWAB official warned. It may also wipe out small businesses and factories that are unable to compete due to rising costs.

He also highlighted the impact on passengers, saying that buses and other public transport generally hike their fares at a sharper rate than the price hike of fuel.

In addition, passengers are often charged beyond the regular fare scale and this is also true for freight transport as well, Chowdhury said.

The government has done little to curb this or the collusion in the transport sector to raise prices, he said.

Though the price of fuel is high on the world market, it is trending down, the PWAB said.

At this time, without assessing the market situation, it is unreasonable and anti-people to drive the price of fuel up just because of the prescriptions by the International Monetary Fund, the association said.

The organisation scheduled a protest in front of the National Press Club for Saturday.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher