Govt shells Petro Bomb on masses

– Raises POL prices by Rs. 35 to set highest selling at Rs. 250 per littre
-Finance Minister claims decision taken to spell out ‘rumors of Petrol shortage’ in country 
-Imran Khan denounces ‘imported government’ for anti-public policies, warns of further inflation
-People, businesses, Traders reject latest hike, demand reversal

By Anzal Amin

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Sunday morning announced a Rs35 increase in the prices of petrol and diesel, in a televised address just minutes before the new prices went into force.
In the address, which began at 10:50am, Dar unveiled the price revision that went into effect at 11:00am — 10 minutes later. New prices are; Petrol: Rs249.80 per litre, High-speed diesel: Rs262.80 per litre, Kerosene oil: Rs 189.83 per litre, Light diesel oil: Rs187 per litre.
Dar said that speculation was rife on social media regarding an Rs50 increase in the prices of petrol and diesel. “Because of this, we have received reports of artificial shortages in the market.” “The Pakistani rupee saw devaluation last week and now we are seeing an 11 per cent increase in the prices of petroleum products in the international market,” he said.
The minister recalled that in the last four months, from October to Jan 29, the price of petrol was not increased. In fact, he went on, the prices of diesel and kerosene oil were decreased.
“Despite international prices and rupee devaluation, on directions of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, we have decided to increase the minimum price of these four products.
“We have decided to increase the price of petrol and diesel by Rs35. The price of kerosene oil and light diesel oil has been increased by Rs18,” Dar said, adding that the new prices would come into effect at 11am yesterday.
The minister further hoped that the announcement of new prices would dispel rumours about petrol supplies running dry. “This rise is being done immediately on the recommendation of the oil and gas regulatory authority who said there were reports of artificial shortages and hoarding of fuel in anticipation of price rises — hence this price rise is being done immediately to combat this.”
Commenting on the development, Fahad Raud, head of equities at Ismail Iqbal Securities, said that the petrol price hike was “in line with expectations”.
“This is only a partial increase as it does not incorporate recent exchange rate depreciation. More increase to come in mid-February,” he tweeted. The decision came days before an International Monetary Fund mission will visit Pakistan later this month to discuss the stalled ninth review of the country’s current funding programme.
Last week, the Pakistani rupee lost close to 12 per cent of its value after the removal of price caps that were imposed by the government but which were opposed by the IMF.
Pakistan is in the midst of a balance of payments crisis and the plummeting value of the Pakistani rupee will push up the price of imported goods. Energy comprises a large part of Pakistan’s import bill.
A successful IMF visit is critical for Pakistan, which is facing an increasingly acute balance of payments crisis and is desperate to secure external financing, with less than three weeks’ worth of import cover in its foreign exchange reserves.
Meanwhile, PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan criticised the petrol price hike, saying that the “total mismanagement” of the economy by the “imported government” has “crushed the masses and salaried class”.
“Electricity and gas price hike and 35% unprecedented inflation expected with Rs200bn mini-budget,” he tweeted. PTI’s Asad Umar said that the public was already fed up with inflation. “May Allah have mercy on these people and deliver them from this punishment,” he added.
Former finance minister Shaukat Tarin said there would be another hike in fuel prices when the IMF mission would visit Pakistan next week. Speaking to media, the PTI leader highlighted that the devaluation of the rupee would effect the prices of all commodities.
“They haven’t even added any tax to the new price. But taxes will be added,” he said. “When the IMF [mission] comes, you will see the government will further increase prices.”
Ahead of Dar’s announcement, on Saturday, rum¬ours of a massive hike in petrol prices resulted in long queues at petrol pumps in many parts of the country. Reports shared on social media had said that the prices of petrol and diesel were expected to go up by anywhere bet¬ween Rs45 to Rs80 on Feb 1.
“We saw a report on soc¬ial media that oil prices will go up due to the surge in the dollar’s value and int¬ernational petroleum rates,” Hassan, who queued at a petrol pump, had told media.
Meanwhile, petrol was available at only 20 per cent of the pum¬ps in Gujranwala, while severe shortages were also repo¬rted in Rah¬im Yar Khan, Bahawalpur, Sialkot and Faisalabad.