Arguably, the government is testing the patience of the masses by giving them regular shocks by jacking up the prices of petrol, oil and lubricants (POL). The latest shock came this Friday in the form of the imposition of a petroleum levy of Rs. 10 as per condition set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). After the exorbitant increase of Rs14.85 per litre, now petrol is being sold at an unprecedented rate of Rs248.74 per litre. Earlier, the government had been charging zero petroleum levy and general sales tax on petroleum products to absorb the impact of the hike in global oil prices and depreciation of the rupee against the dollar. Possibly, the government is perturbed to meet the ambitious revenue targets, which have been set on the instructions of the International Monetary Fund. Amid declining foreign exchange reserves, the sale of POL is a cash cow for the Ministry of Finance as 25 percent of revenue comes from the oil and gas sector. The government is consistently increasing the POL prices in order to keep the budget on track.
However, an increase in POL prices might trigger a new wave of inflation. An increase in the price of high-speed diesel will make a direct impact on the transport and agriculture sector that could ignite a new storm of inflation. The increase is already creating panic and the masses can hit the streets anytime to vent their anger. The coalition government’s inability to control the price hikes has provided an opportunity for PTI chairman Imran Khan to win the masses’ support despite his poor performance during the last three and a half years. But now, his tenure is seen as the best one when compared to the present situation. Why did the coalition government lead by the PML-N take over the reins of government, if the situation was so bleak? On its part, the PML-N government is busy in the blame game and putting the burden of POL price hike on the previous PTI government. According to the PML-N, the current hike was the result of an agreement reached between the IMF and the PTI government, which the latter did not abide by.
The government must be aware that the masses have become more conscious of their problems due to the active role of mass media and they can stand up against this injustice. It is becoming unbearable day by day and can lead to violent protests. For how long a nation can sustain the burden of poor policies of the current and previous governments that always try to prove themselves as the saviour of the nation but fail to provide any relief to the common man. The rulers must look for other means of raising cash and meeting revenue targets instead of burdening the masses with more taxes. The government needs to reduce its unnecessary expenditures and take austerity measures.