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GoM meet on natural gas prices hike inconclusive

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, JAN. 25. Decisions on raising natural gas prices and creation of a petroleum regulatory authority remained elusive today as a Group of Ministers meeting could not take any final views on these long-pending issues.

According to the Petroleum Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, the meeting was inconclusive and time was not sufficient for the Ministry to make presentations on both issues. "Discussions will continue," he said after the hour-long meeting.

He assured, however, that the next meeting of the GoM is likely to be taken before the budget session of Parliament begins in the last week of February. The GoM comprises the Ministers of Defence, Finance, Power, Petroleum and Fertilizers as well as the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.

Mr. Aiyar said Secretaries of the departments would meet to sort out issues before the next meeting. One of the key issues before the GoM is the Petroleum Ministry's proposal to raise the price of natural gas from Rs. 2,850 per 1,000 cubic metres to Rs. 3,200 per 1,000 cubic metres for fertilizer units and Rs. 3,600 per 1,000 cubic metres for power sector on a provisional basis. Besides it has been suggested that gas produced in the private sector should be sold at market price, which is nearly double the current prices.

The GoM also has to consider setting up of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board to oversee downstream oil refining and marketing of petroleum products, natural gas sale, transportation and product and gas pipeline.

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