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Oil pricing debate rages on

india Updated: Feb 16, 2009 23:13 IST
Anupama Airy
Anupama Airy
Hindustan Times
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Even as the UPA spent most of its tenure fighting the impact of high oil prices, there was little talk of it in the interim budget.

In the last four years and until a few months back, high oil prices had caused mayhem and were the main worry for oil-importing nations.

India, which imports 78 per cent of its crude oil requirements, has been no exception. The high prices not only imbalanced the trade and fiscal deficits, but also pushed up inflation, slowing down growth momentum.

It was in July 2008, that the global crude oil prices started plummeting when after a long spell of high prices. After touching an all time high of $148 per barrel in June 2008, oil prices saw a major slump and hit their four-year low of less than $40 a barrel literally within weeks.

The trend allowed policy-makers to announce two cuts in petrol and diesel prices by Rs 10 per litre and Rs 4 per litre respectively. LPG prices were also cut by Rs 25 per cylinder.

The move cheered consumers, who were otherwise battling out huge fuel bills every month. Gaurav Chauhan, an executive with a Delhi-based multinational, is not complaining, because his fuel bill has fallen by Rs 2,000-Rs 2,500 per month.

The fall in prices also started the long-pending debate to correct anomalies in the domestic fuel pricing structure and moving to a free-market regime.

“This is the right time to free domestic fuel pricing. Government has no business controlling prices. The regulator has been in place for over a year and should be allowed to handle pricing,” said SC Tripathi, former petroleum secretary.

However, with elections around the corner, the government is not comfortable taking that call.

All major reform initiatives have been deferred till such time a new government assumes office.