Poverty-hit Bangladesh forced into huge fuel price hike

DHAKA, June 30, 2008 (AFP) – Impoverished Bangladesh became the latest victim of surging global crude costs Monday with the government announcing it has been forced to hike state-set fuel prices by between 34 and 66 percent. Authorities said they had no alternative to the sharp increases because the country could no longer afford to sell petrol, diesel, kerosene and gas at subsidised rates that were set when a barrel of oil cost just 60 dollars.

On Monday, oil was trading close to 144 dollars a barrel.

“Frankly speaking, we had no choice. It was unavoidable,” Bangladesh’s deputy energy minister M. Tamin told AFP.

“The oil subsidy still accounts for 40 percent of the government’s development budget. Imagine a situation where crude oil goes up to 200 dollars a barrel. All development in Bangladesh will stop,” he said.

The price rises represent a major blow for the country, one of the world’s poorest, where nearly 40 percent of the 144 million population survive on less than a dollar a day.

The country is already suffering from rising food prices, with the price of rice — a staple in the South Asian nation — nearly doubling over the past year.

“It’s an international crisis. We think rich countri