Hit by coronavirus pandemic, many major market players are struggling with utility bills
Pandemic hit businesses with a good track record in paying utility bills are likely to qualify for a special government facility on gas bill payment.
Under the scheme, commercial customers will be allowed to pay their gas bills for the March-May period in instalments. However, those who were already irregular in paying bills before the pandemic will not qualify for the arrangement.
The information was learned from the Energy and Mineral Resource Division monthly coordination meeting minutes. Besides, high-officials of Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited (TGTDCL) also hinted at introducing such a provision.
The government declared a general-holiday from March 26 in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. During the 68-day holiday until May 30, all industries and businesses except for export-oriented productions, pharmaceuticals, and food manufacturing were closed.
In that time, many industries that managed to continue production could not sell their products owing to the shutdown-led restrictions. Hit by the virus fallout, these firms sought the TGTDCL to allow them to pay March-May gas bills in six to twelve instalments.
During the recent Energy and Mineral Resource Division monthly meeting on June 10, Titas Gas Managing Director Ali Md Al-Mamun raised the businessmen's demand. He said Titas had been facing difficulties in taking any decision since the existing gas distribution guidelines did not mention any special provision during a pandemic.
Subsequently, Energy and Mineral Resource Division Senior Secretary Md Anisur Rahman told the meeting that a special order could be issued considering the virus situation.
"Many major market players are struggling with utility bills due to the virus fallout. They have applied for a waiver. The policymakers also responded positively to them," a top Titas Gas official told The Business Standard on the condition of anonymity on Sunday.
"Virus-hit businesses that used to pay bills regularly before the Covid-19 outbreak will be given an installment facility on a case by case basis," said the official, adding they are yet to decide the number of installments.
The next board of directors meeting of Titas may finalise it.
Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI), said many industries are yet to retrieve the production pace hampered by the coronavirus pandemic. Though many companies managed to continue manufacturing during the shutdown, they could not sell the products.
"The government is aware of the situation and that is why it declared stimulus packages of nearly Tk1 lakh crore. If the businesses are further allowed to pay gas bill in installment, it will benefit the industrial sector," he added.