Admitting that high gas bills are a burden to consumers, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan has announced that consumers will now be able to pay their bills in four equal installments.
However, the offer is only for consumers whose bills exceed Rs. 20,000.
The petroleum minister termed the decision ‘a relief’ for the consumers who find it difficult to pay their bills in one go. With the facility of installments, they will be able to avoid disconnection.
He said that Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) and the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) have been asked not to cut the gas supply to such consumers.
Khan further said that the Customer Care Services of said utilities will remain open on Saturdays and Sundays to assist the consumers.
While the relief is a welcome measure, the only explanation of why a situation necessitating such relief has risen is “increased consumption of gas” in severe cold. The minister said that owing to the increased consumption, the low-slab consumers moved up to the higher slab and thus, the bills increased manifold.
Sarwar said that he was hopeful the situation would improve in the next season.
He criticized the previous government for buying gas at higher rates and selling at lower rates.
“We are not in a position to pay a subsidy, owing to the poor financial health of the gas companies,” said the minister. He revealed that the SSGCL and SNGPL were acquiring gas for Rs. 487 billion and selling it for Rs. 332 billion, which created a shortfall of Rs. 155 billion.
The recent hike in gas rates has allowed the government to reduce the shortfall to Rs. 69 billion, said the minister. He told the media that the government is working on several measures like abolishing duties and taxes on offshore drilling to invite investors and speed up gas exploration in the country.
“We will share the good news with the people by March,” Khan said.
He further warned that if new gas reserves are not found, the current reserves would be depleted by 2027.