KATHMANDU, July 31: A day after liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) bottlers issued strike threat, Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has invited them for talks to deal with their demands and avoid possible reappearance of gas scarcity in the market.
“We issued a letter to the Nepal LPG Industries Association (NLPGIA) on Tuesday. Hopefully they will respond promptly and come for talks,” Suresh Kumar Agrawal acting executive director of NOC informed Republica.
Gas bottlers said they are yet to get the letter, but would reciprocate the call positively as soon as they receive the letter.
NLPGIA on Monday had given a week´s ultimatum to the government to full its demands, which among others include revocation of decision on enforcement of dual cylinder and differential pricing for household and commercial consumers, rise in their profit margin to 5 percent from 3 percent, and hike in LPG transportation subsidy.
It has also demanded the government to set aside a fund worth 1 percent of total annual import cost to run consumer awareness and safety campaigns and urged NOC to cover their third party insurance.
Officials and experts tagged their demands as being ´untimely´ and ´quite unnecessary´. But NLPGIA has warned that it would stop placing order for LPG import from August 8 and eventually halt distribution of gas in the market from August 15 if the government did not fulfill them.
“Our demands are genuine. The government must fulfill them,” said Shiva Prasad Ghimire, coordinator of a committee of NLPGIA.
Sources meanwhile, noted that though the NOC has called LPG bottlers for talks, its management alone cannot address all their demands as many of them are related with the policy level decisions taken by the government.
For instance, they said NOC management has no authority to negotiate on NLPGIA demand that seek instant revocation of dual cylinder and differential pricing which is a Ministerial level decision.
“Similar will be the situation on demand in which the bottlers´ have demanded the government set aside a separate fund for running consumer awareness and safety campaigns. NOC management cannot negotiate on it,” said a source.
That is not all. Officials at Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) said their demands were unfair and not genuine. “The petroleum sector all through these years has operated with commission (profit margin) of 3 percent. This is true in case of India as well. So their demand to raise commission to 5 percent of retail rate is unfair,” said a MoCS official.
He also tagged the effort of the bottlers to extract fund from the government for consumer awareness while they walk away all the profits in LPG trade as ´ridiculous´. “This demand proves our LPG companies are not just irresponsible, but are also shameless. They are not even ready to invest on very basic business activity like raising customer awareness and assuring them safety,” he added.