India urges lower fuel prices but petroleum minister rules out tax cuts

by Shahkar Abidi 23 Oct 2021

Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Housing and Urban Affairs: “It (taxes on fuels) helps us to provide welfare services.”

Even as Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, urged oil producing countries to keep the interest of  consuming nations in mind amidst the rising oil and gas prices, the minister defended the Centre's  imposition of taxes on petrol and diesel, both of which are scaling new highs every other day.

As of today, petrol in Mumbai costs Rs 113.12 a litre and diesel Rs 104, which is 25-30% costlier than the less taxed aviation turbine fuel. As is known, the retail price of petrol includes Central excise duty and State government-levied VAT, both of which contribute to the wallet-busting prices of the two fuels. While petrol has a tax combined component of 54%, taxes account for 48% of the diesel that goes into vehicle tanks. Considering that neither the Centre nor State government are willing to let go of this big-ticket revenue stream, motorists will continue to feel the burden of pricey petrol and diesel. What’s more, CNG prices too are on the upswing.

Centre blames states for not allowing fuel under GST
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of India Energy Forum CeraWeek in New Delhi, Hardeep Singh Puri said that approximately Rs 32 (of every litre) which the Central government levies on fuel goes towards meeting the country's social needs. "It helps us to provide welfare services," said Puri pointing that it is the State governments which repeatedly resisted allowing fuel prices under GST. The record 100 crore Covid-19 vaccines which the government has been able to administer to Indian citizens has been possible only due to the taxation levied by the government, the minister added.  

As reported by Autocar Professional earlier, during the 12-month period beginning  October 1, 2020 through to October 1, 2021, petrol has become more expensive by Rs 20.41 a litre and diesel by Rs 20.91 in Mumbai. And seen over a period of 18 months, from April 1, 2020, when BS VI emission norms kicked in, petrol as of today (October 23) is dearer by Rs 37.84 a litre and diesel by Rs 38.81. 

India's oil marketing companies (OMC), which had earlier hedged global crude oil at lower prices, particularly during the early days of the pandemic (February-June 2020) are now reaping the benefits in spades. Industry data indicates OMCs are likely to pocket anywhere between Rs 740 crore to Rs 1,490 crore on account of inventory gains in the current quarter (October-November 2021) of FY2022 . 

Currently, global crude oil prices are currently trading at near-three-year highs ($ 85/bbl) due to a number of factors including possible drop in global demand and the OPEC and OPEC + decision to reduce production cuts. OPEC and OPEC + is a cartel of oil producing countries. Besides, US production was hit due to ongoing hurricane-related outages. 

Rising crude oil prices to impact global economic recovery
In his closing remarks at the India Energy Forum CERAWEEK, referring to the latest Commodity Markets Outlook by World Bank, Hardeep Singh Puri said the cost of energy should not be allowed to outstrip the paying capacity of consuming nations. Unless the prices of crude oil are maintained at sustainable levels, it will severely impact the green shoots of global economic recovery. This imperative needs to be configured by the consuming countries, in planning their production profiles for future.

The World Bank had stated that “the surge in energy prices poses significant near-term risks to global inflation and, if sustained, could also weigh on growth in energy-importing countries.”

Puri said that the Indian oil and gas industry has made significant strides in recent years.

He added that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is focused on increasing exploration in India to reduce import dependency. He said that currently in India, only 6 out of the 26 sedimentary basins have been explored. “We are looking for international partners to participate in the exploration journey of India.” The minister invited the global industry and experts to become partners in India’s shared prosperity by enhancing India’s production of all forms of energy.

Nonetheless, this is of little solace to the beleagured motorist population in India as well as the commercial vehicle industry, both of whom are spending big bucks to travel the same distance.   

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