Autonomous BERC subordinates itself to energy ministryManjurul Ahsan
The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission has for five years been seeking the approval of the power and energy ministry before framing regulations involving energy prices and standards although it has the legal authority to act autonomously in this area.
Energy commission member Salim Mahmud told New Age that the practice of seeking approval of the ministry’s energy division relating to draft regulations went ‘against the spirit of the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission Act 2003.’
Salim, however did not respond to a question about why the commission has sought the ministry’s approval.
After a request from the commission for a legal opinion on whether it ‘has the power to make regulations under Section 59 of the BERC Act 2003,’ in April 2013, Amir and Amir Law Associates responded by stating, ‘Power to enact to enact any regulation has been delegated through the BERC Act 2003, giving the commission… the statutory authority to make regulations independently….’
The objective of the BERC Act 2003, as explained in the preamble to the act, is ‘… to create an atmosphere conducive to private investment in the generation of electricity, and transmission and marketing of gas resources and petroleum products, to ensure transparency in the management, operation and tariff in these sectors; to protect consumers’ interest and to promote the creation of a competitive market….’
Taking advantage from BERC’s practice of seeking the ministry’s agreement before framing a regulation, the ministry has for a year and a half shelved a draft regulation that would have enabled the commission to set prices of all petroleum products other than natural gas, BERC officials have alleged to New Age.
In early July 2012, the commission sent the draft regulation to the power and energy ministry for its ‘opinion’ before a law ministry vetting.
The government now sets prices of petroleum products using its executive power which has drawn widespread criticism when it increased the price of diesel and kerosene by Tk 24 a litre and that of petrol and octane by Tk 22 in five phases between May 2011 and January 2013.
In 2011, It also unilaterally increased the price of furnace oil by Tk 36 a litre, from Tk 24 to Tk 60 a litre.
The price increases were results of pressure on the government from the International Monetary Fund which sought to reduce the level of government subsidies on energy.
Consumers, however, face the financial hardship because of fuel price increases which have pushed up goods prices and the cost of living.
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