High gas prices blamed on smuggling to Pakistan

KABUL (Pajhwok): The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) on Thursday linked high gas prices to its smuggling to Pakistan, saying the petroleum and gas department had lost $57 million in revenue as a result.

ACCI official Faridullah Sherzai told a news conference some people within the government misused their positions and damage the economy by facilitating gas smuggling to the neighbouring country.

He said some of such elements had been arrested and handed over to security organs. Sherzai asked the government to strengthen border controls for preventing illegal activities.

Neighboring countries were trying to use military, political and economic pressures on the Afghans, he alleged, explaining the electoral impasse had also contributed to the hike in gas prices.

He said one tonne of gas sold for $403 in Turkmenistan but it cost $627 in Afghanistan, including the cost of transportation and taxes paid in Herat and Balkh provinces.

The end-consumer, he said, had to pay $787 for one tonne. The price of one kilogram of gas should not be higher than 55 Afghanis, he believed. The current rate ranges between 70 and 80 afghanis.

Musafar Qoqandawi, the Ministry of Trade and Industry spokesman, argued that the government could not influence prices in a free market system.

A year ago, he recalled, the ministry had constituted a committee to monitor the prices of petroleum products but some concerns had forced traders to reduce gas imports, which increased the price.

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