Official data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) shows that gas charges have gone up by 1108.59 percent in the outgoing week of 2023 against the same week last year.

The official data of the Sensitive Price Index (SPI) released on Friday shows that gas charges for lower quintile witnessed a hike in prices by 1108.59 percent in the latest week.On other hand, the Ministry of Energy claimed that gas prices went up 65 percent on average with effect from November 2023, so there is something fundamentally wrong somewhere resulting into massive differences in calculation worked out by both sides.Top official sources confirmed to The News on Friday that the Ministry of Energy took up the issue with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) and inquired about the used methodology to calculate such a massive hike. In the last week Sensitive Price Index (SPI), the PBS had calculated gas charges for lowest quintile in the range of 480 percent for the latest week compared to the same week of the last year. The Ministry of Energy and PBS high-ups held meetings but both sides failed to strike a consensus on any workable solution mutually agreed by both sides. The Ministry of Energy took the stance that there were two categories, protected and non-protected, and almost 57 percent customers belonged to the category of protected customers where there was no surge in the prices. Ministry of Energy high-ups inquired about the used methodology and asked the PBS to furnish the notification of OGRA (Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority). It was also inquired whether the PBS took the Ministry of Energy or OGRA into confidence or secured any authentication at the time of changing price data methodology few years back. “We have sought an authentication letter from the PBS but it was argued that there was set methodology which cannot be changed in line with international standards,” sources said.Another official commented that the PBS had showed declined prices of electricity in August 2023, when the whole country was making deafening a hue and cry over inflated bills. There is a need for ascertaining reasons for the rate but also obvious episodes resulting into tarnishing of credibility of official statistics.Now PBS high-ups argued that the Ministry of Energy has jacked up fixed charges for all categories including those who fell into the category of protected consumers and plus the 18 percent GST was also charged. So far the fixed charges on the bill have gone up from Rs 121 to Rs 1400 for low quintile customers so the average cost of customers was calculated accurately. There is no mistake in calculating the prices of gas charges for low quintile, they added.Now the PBS will release the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data on December 1, 2023, and on the basis of the trend and other macroeconomic indicators, the Monetary Policy Committee of the SBP is going to take a decision on policy rate in its scheduled meeting on December 12. The policy rate stands at 22 percent at the moment.Independent experts say that the authenticity of the official data requires more transparency so the methodology and calculation of gas and electricity should be streamlined.

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