The Opposition yesterday slammed the government for increasing fuel prices. The price of a litre of Octane 90 petrol was raised by Rs. 12 to Rs. 149, the price of a litre of diesel by Rs. 31 per litre to Rs. 115, a litre of kerosene by Rs. 35 to Rs. 106 and a litre of Octane 95 petrol Petrol by Rs. 12 to Rs. 167.
“It is absurd that the government has imposed such hefty fuel price increases where the landed cost of a litre of ready-to-use petrol and diesel at the Colombo port are Rs. 75 and Rs. 71 respectively,” Colombo District UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake told The Island yesterday.
The former Trade and Commerce Minister also charged that the increase of the fuel prices was grossly due to the inefficiency of the government where almost all the top state institutions were running at staggering losses including the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, the Ceylon Electricity Board, the National Carrier SriLankan Airlines and Mihin Air.
MP Karunanayake said it was President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Finance and Planning Minister who, while addressing the budget speech in Parliament said that crude oil was US$ 139 per barrel which was now US$ 117. So, going by the same logic, the government should have reduced and not increased fuel prices, he said, claiming that if fuel price increases had been attributable to increases in the world market prices, then the corresponding price increases would have been seen in neighbouring countries such as India, Pakistan and others.
Karunanayake said that though the government had proudly said that it did not need the International Monetary Fund assistance in future, it was now grovelling before it like a beggar.
UNP National List MP and Economist Dr Harsha De Silva said that the government’s economic management was a disaster and though the government claimed to be independent of the IMF, it was still dependent on the international lending agency for financial support. That was the reason why the rupee had been devalued and that was one of the reasons why the petrol prices had been increased.
Dr. de Silva said: “The government told us in Parliament that it was making a loss of Rs. 22 per litre of diesel and now it will make a profit of Rs. 9 per litre of diesel but the government admitted that it was making huge profit on petrol.”
The government was subsidising and defending the rupee all this time and it came to a point where it could not go any further, the MP de Silva said, charging that the fuel prices had been increased to bring down the combined losses of the Ceylon Electricity Board and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to zero.
Meanwhile, Gampaha District JVP MP Vijitha Herath said that the petrol price increase was due to the government mismanaging the economy and that waste of public funds was rampant.
He charged that the government had spent a whopping sum of Rs. 2.1 billion on Deyata Kirula exhibition while jacking up fuel prices.
If the government attributed the recent increase to the crisis in Iran and where payments had to be effected in dollars, then the government’s decision to negotiate oil purchases from other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Singapore, ran counter to that argument, MP Herath said.
The government was claiming that it was negotiating with other sources of supplies but only 40% of the country’s total oil requirement came in the form of crude, Herath said, asking whether the the government would reduce the prices when it started obtaining oil from sources other than Iran.
The JVP would organise a series of protests today in Colombo, Matara and Anuradhapura, demanding that the government bring down the cost of fuel prices.
By Ravi Ladduwahetty