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Gas price hike adding insult to injuries

On one hand, the cold snap around the country, especially capital Kabul, is taking its toll on the impoverished Afghans and the mere mortals while on the other, the skyrocketing gas prices have multiplied their miseries. Following the unprecedented snowfalls and cold weather, the price per kilo of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) has seen a 70 percent hike compared to its rate two months ago in Kabul – as it jumped high from 45 to 90 Afs. Surprisingly, this massive spike is orchestrated by private gas sellers and distributors although government distribution centers still sold each kilogram of the commodity for 45 Afs. Despite the authorities concern deflect the mounting criticism by citing closed snow-clogged highways as the reason, there are other underlying reasons behind the issue.

Essentially, a free market is a system in which the prices for goods and services are self-regulated by the open market and by consumers. However, this notion is manipulated and misused in Afghanistan as it seems there is a secret syndicate of gas importers who control the market and then the prices are fixed by some powerful individuals working in collusion. This move by these inconsiderate businessmen who add insult to the Afghans’ difficulties is something that necessitates the government to step in and take immediate actions to stabilize the gas price. Meanwhile, there are some rumors that officials of the customs and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce were compelling the gas importing truckers to engage in backstage deals, thus enraging them to protest and block the Herat-Kabul highway. However, there is the issue that why the government is not taking any action to alleviate people’s suffering? If the problem is in fact because of closed highways, then the government in possession of gas-filled reserves has the capacity to dispense and offer gas to the market and thus prevent the price hike. Also, the establishment can help consumers by subsidizing the commodity. Besides, one wonders what role the Afghanistan Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (AOGRA), which was established in August 2018 through a presidential decree, is playing in this, which is apparently nothing as yet. Considering these circumstances, the government should strive to take remedial steps in this regard by helping the badly off people deal with harsh weather and daily life needs.

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