Plight of oil consumers

APART from causing sleepless nights to the consumers of petroleum products and the rest of society for its horrendous impact on the inflationary spiral, the recent surge in the global oil prices had one blatantly unfair element in the context of Pakistan: the petroleum industry here was making huge profits out of the price hike. On Wednesday, the Economic Co-Coordination Committee of the cabinet decided to do something about it and limited the profit margin of oil marketing companies operating in the country. This was revealed by Finance Minister Syed Naveed Qamar who maintained that the decision was aimed at checking the ballooning budget deficit, which had increased to 6.5 percent. There is some comfort that efforts are being made to reduce the quantum of subsidy and see to it that all partners in the oil industry were treated on equal basis since in the previous arrangement, which had persisted for so long, the consumer alone had to bear the brunt. But another unfair factor was not removed, and the Minister maintained that the formula would not bring down the prices of petroleum products in the market. This has caused widespread and justified dismay and led to howls of protests over the official callousness at the people's agonising economic worries. For the past day or two since the possibility of the reduction of oil marketing companies' profits had leaked to the media, there was hope among the public that some relief was on the way. To provide relief in the public, the government should have markedly lowered, if not totally eliminated, the heavy taxes it charges on these products, which have gone up due to the soaring prices. And to keep the budgetary deficit within reasonable limits, it ought to have shunned the habit of lavish expenditure.

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