October 11, 2021 04:28 PM
The retail price of cooking gas in Sri Lanka recorded an exponential rise on Monday — of nearly 90 per cent — following the government’s recent announcement of ending price control for essential commodities.
The standard domestic cooking gas cylinder (12.5 kg), which cost Rs 1,400 on Friday last, is now available for Rs 2,657, a jump of Rs 1,257.
One kilo milk is now costlier by Rs 250, retailing at Rs 1,195. Similarly, price increases were recorded for other essential items like wheat flour, sugar and even cement.
However, the record increase in cooking gas prices invited the most public outrage. Social media was awash with angry posts with a demand to roll back prices.
”The Cabinet decided to lift price controls for milk powder, wheat flour, sugar and liquified petroleum gas hoping it would increase supplies. The prices could go up by as much as 37 per cent across but we hope dealers will not make unconscionable profits,” said Spokesman for the Consumer Protection Authority. The Sri Lankan government on Thursday night, following a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, decided to stop price controls for milk powder, gas, wheat flour and cement.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the island nation in 2020, the government introduced import controls in a bid to save fast depreciating foreign currency reserves.
This led to shortages of essentials, especially milk powder.
Milk powder importers said they were unable to clear their shipments from the docks as there was severe scarcity of the US dollar.
Early in September this year, the Lankan Parliament passed emergency regulations to control the prices of essential commodities and stop hoarding. However, supply of essentials continued to remain inadequate.
The government last week explained that the removal of price controls in the domestic market would boost supply as now there were added incentives for suppliers.
Sri Lanka, a net importer of food and other commodities, has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with its tourism sector, one of its main foreign currency earners, in shambles.
At the end of July this year, Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves fell to USD 2.8 billion from USD 7.5 billion in November 2019 when the current Rajapaksa-led dispensation took office.
The coronavirus has claimed 13,331 lives along with 526,383 confirmed cases in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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