To first announce a petrol price reduction, then let consumers down because of the shortage at pumps, and then finally drop a petrol bomb on them by increasing prices by Rs25 per litre, that too without warning, is a little unfair. According to news reports, the decision was announced so suddenly, instead of going the legal route where Ogra (Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority) forwards a proposal to the government which then accepts or rejects it, because of the low stocks in place. And doing things the proper way would have pushed shocked consumers to rush to the pumps and fill up one more time, at least, before they were made to pay such exorbitant amounts once again. But it was the government’s responsibility to maintain necessary stockpiles, not the people’s, so why should the latter be made to pay, quite literally, for the former’s inability to do its job properly.
The official line justifying the increase, that prices were rising in the international market, also begs a few important questions. Could PTI, for example, really have forgotten what it used to say about just such increases when it was in the opposition and others were in power? Then, just as now, the move was dictated by trends in Brent crude. But PTI’s stance then was that the government should bear the burden in hard times instead of passing it immediately on to the people. And now times are about as hard as they have been in living memory; at least as far as the economy, wages, employment, etc, go. And with more and more people losing their livelihoods, what they needed right now was to be shielded by just such price fluctuations that a lot of them will be simply unable to cope with.
Fuel is of course the necessary input cost in all sorts of businesses. That is why a rise in the price of petrol triggers price increase across the board, especially when it rises by so much in one go. Now PTI has only itself to blame if the opposition reminds it of its own promises and makes fun of it in front of the people. And it is shocking that several senior ministers are still trying to deflect attention from this particular episode by reminding everybody how everything was broken by previous administrations. Surely PTI will have to do a better job of keeping people on its side. The more it breaks its own promises, the more it alienates even the people that have stood by it through thick and thin. And this latest petrol bomb hasn’t helped at all.