You may not have noticed it but the price of subsidised cooking gas rose by an average of Rs 10 per cylinder in the July-January period of current fiscal taking the price paid by common man for fuel closer to market rates.
The good news is that with the developments in past few months, the government is looking to completely eliminate oil subsidy by early FY22. But for consumers, the move would mean that their cooking gas price would shoot up by another Rs 100-150 per cylinder over the next one year.
Sources said that taking advantage of low oil prices, government may give nod to state-run oil marketing companies (OMC) to increase price of subsidised LPG cylinder gradually so that entire subsidy paid under direct benefit transfer scheme (DBT) to eligible consumers is eliminated in one year's time.
Already during July 2019-January 2020, the OMCs increased the price of subsidised LPG by Rs 63 per cylinder. At current global oil prices, if oil companies raise the rate of subsidised LPG cylinder (14.2 kg) by just about Rs 10 per cylinder per month, in 15 months time there would not be any need to extend Central support.
The price of a subsidised LPG cylinder (14.2 kg) currently works to around Rs 557 with government providing Rs 157 as subsidy directly into the account of eligible consumers. The subsidy level may fall if oil prices slide further and remain below $60 a barrel in most parts of FY21.
"Raising prices of subsidised LPG cylinder augurs well for the OMCs, especially keeping in mind the intended privatisation of BPCL. However, the resolve of the government would be tested if oil prices spike," said Motilal Oswal in its latest report on oil and gas sector.
At end of FY19, the OMCs had total government receivables of Rs 34,900 crore on account of compensation for LPG /kerosene under-recovery. Deregulating LPG would boost the working capital of the OMCs.
The oil marketing companies (OMCs) incurred gross under-recoveries of Rs 43,300 crore in FY19, of which LPG accounted for Rs 31,500 crore (73 per cent). in case of kerosene, the subsidy support has already fallen and with states targeting the flow of fuel through the PDS system, this subsidy could also be taken off.
(Subhash Narayan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)