We have raised the price of petroleum products following our inability to subsidize the Petroleum Products. As the prices of petroleum products are much higher in the international market, it is impossible for Nepal Oil Corporation to sell the petroleum products at the previous prices with huge losses in all the products. Despite the increase, Nepal Oil Corporation is still losing over Rs. 870 million per month. In case of any dispute in Iran, we don’t know the coming crisis of petroleum products. Nobody wants to take such a decision to add burden to the common people. I am no exception. But, one needs to take harsh decisions when there is a situation where no other option is left. The present price increase is an example.
I don’t understand the reason behind launching the agitation. I know the pain of the poor and common people. Since we launched the people’s war to provide the relief to the poor and oppressed people, we know the real situation of the poor better than those political parties or groups which are launching the agitation to discredit the image of revolutionary Maoist party. The present price rise has nothing to do with putting pressure on the common people. This is a just price adjustment. How long can a state provide relief to the people by ignoring 85 percent of the people living in rural and remote parts of Nepal. If we provide the subsidy, we have to cut budget allocated to primary education, health and other services given to the poor people of Nepal. There are several reasons under which we are compelled to increase the price.
Personally, I can challenge everybody that I will quit politics if someone proves my involvement in corruption or any other scandal related to the increase in the prices of petroleum products. As a politician, I look at the interest of the poor and common people. My whole philosophy is to provide the relief to the poor and oppressed people. I want to challenge other political parties who are instigating students against us why they did similar things in the past. I would like to request all political parties, students and intellectuals to come to real grounds on price rise. After the price increase, large number of people will get relief and they don’t have to line up for hour and hour in petrol pumps to get few liters of petrol. There is no way out before us.
I have already asked general manager of Nepal Oil Corporation to issue a public notice showing the price structure of petroleum products on fortnightly basis. This will help consumers to know the real rate of the petrol. Such information should be given to all common people of Nepal. As all of us know, Nepal Oil Corporation has been buying the petroleum products from depot of Indian Oil Corporations. Major supply point is Raxual. NOC pays the price of petroleum products at Raxual rate. This includes taxes, commission and transport costs. NOC has been facing a huge loss in LPG and Diesel. It is not a question of few million rupees but it is the matter related to billions. The government cannot afford it.
Everyone knows the global market situation of the Petroleum Products. All countries around the world are suffering from it. Nepal too is not an exception as we too have depended upon the supply of petroleum products from Gulf countries. For the long run, we need to search for alternative energy by encouraging people to use solar and bio-gas sources. But, it cannot be done overnight and it will take a long term vision and strategy. The present government is seriously considering how to provide long term relief to the people. We are discussing various options to provide relief to the people.
We know the current prices hike will affect the people living below the poverty line, middle class, students and employees. We are considering to give some sort of relief to them by fixing double pricing for household use and other purposes, including industrialization and others. We have already directed NOC to introduce two types of cylinders, including one for households and other for commercial use. There will be 19 KG cylinder for commercial use and the price of this cylinder will be higher than the normal cylinder for household use. We have also made provisions to allow business houses to import the petroleum products from Indian Oil Corporation’s depot in Raxual by paying the market prices. If a corporate house or industry wants to import petrol or diesel over 10,000 litres, they will be granted to get it from IOC depot in Raxual. This will also help to ease the loss of NOC. We will announce the reform and relief package to the people. The prices of petroleum products are not in our hands. They are not our own productions.
Bhatta is Minister of commerce and Supply