BERC amendment bill passed

    Originally posted in The Daily Star on 30 January 2023

    The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (Amendment) Bill 2023 was passed in parliament yesterday, paving the way for the government to adjust gas and electricity prices without holding a public hearing.

    Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy, and mineral resources, placed the bill, which was unanimously passed by a voice vote with Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair.

    At the time, the state minister said the proposed law was being enacted by amending the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission Act 2003.

    “The system loss in electricity generation is now less than 6-7 percent, down from 41 percent previously,” he added.

    Meanwhile, Gonoforum MP Mokabbir Khan called the act a “black law,” and said that while the government has increased electricity distribution, corruption is also prevalent in the sector.

    “If the price of electricity and gas rises, it affects everything, but the government doesn’t care because when it loses faith in the people, it enacts black laws.”

    He went on to say that the government raised electricity prices 11 times in the last 14 years and that the bill would allow prices to rise even further.

    Mokabbir said that looting and corruption are to blame for the crisis in the power sector. “However, it hurts the government if people talk about it openly.”

    He asked if this law was being passed for the benefit of businesspeople.

    Mokabbir later withdrew his amendment proposal and walked out of the House in protest of the bill.

    On January 5, Law Minister Anisul Huq placed the “Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022” in parliament.

    The ordinance was proclaimed by President Abdul Hamid on December 1 last year, and on the same day, the law ministry issued a gazette announcing the amendment.

    Previously, the ministry of power, energy, and mineral resources adjusted the prices of fuel, including diesel, octane, kerosene, and petrol, without any public hearings, whereas BERC adjusted the prices of gas and electricity after public hearings.

    The BERC is an autonomous body established based on the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission Act 2003, aiming at improving power and energy infrastructure in Bangladesh. The law has previously been amended three times.

    With the amendment of the 2003 act, the ministry will not be required to hold a hearing to decide new prices for gas and electricity.

    On November 28, the cabinet approved an amendment to the BERC Act 2003 to empower the government to set fuel tariffs on its own under special circumstances without waiting for the commission’s public hearing and decision.