Business leaders yesterday spoke out against the distribution companies' proposal to hike the gas price by 132 percent for industrial units and recommended raising the prices in phases.
“We are bleeding now and we are not ready to shed anymore blood,” said Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), at a joint press conference held at the trade body's office in Dhaka.
Leaders of the BGMEA, the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) were present at the event organised to oppose the proposed gas price hike to Tk 18.04 per cubic metre from Tk 7.76 now.
The government had stopped giving new gas connections to industrial units since 2012, resuming it last year after the import of liquefied natural gas.
“Give us at least two years to cover the losses that we incurred over the last three years and adjust to the salary hike of workers,” Rahman said.
Asked what would be an acceptable gas price hike for industries, the BGMEA president declined to give any specific rate and suggested incremental rises instead of one big hike.
The prices of Bangladeshi garment items declined by 3 to 7 percent between 2014 and 2018 whereas the cost of production increased 8 percent on average.
“So, this is not the right moment to raise the gas price -- the entrepreneurs are already being throttled,” Rahman added.
The garment factory owners spent a few billions of dollars to fix the safety related problems over the last few years, said Mansoor Ahmed, acting BKMEA president.
“And now we get the proposal for the abnormal price hike of gas. The industries will not survive if the new rate is implemented,” he added.
The cost of production will increase by 5 percent thanks to the gas price hike, said Mohammad Ali Khokon, president of the BTMA. “And given the current situation we cannot even make 2 percent profit.”
Khokon went on to demand an unchanged gas price for at least 10 years. “We have to be competitive in the international markets,” he added.