IT would be unrealistic to assume that the people would take another price jump by the two state-owned gas utilities lying down. Protests at power billing at higher rates and shutdowns have begun to occur almost daily in different parts of the country because the man in the street could carry a limited amount of burden. Forced to lift excess weight, he would either rebel and resort to violent protests or crumble down, going hungry, committing suicide, selling his children for a day's meal. According to a report published in this paper yesterday, both the Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited and the Sui Southern Gas Company have approached the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority to accede to their demand of raising the tariff by 30 percent for the first six months of 2009. No doubt, the cost of goods and services of every shade and hue is inexorably going up and, on that score, it would be churlish to grudge the gas companies' proposal for bigger return, if they were to meet the increased cost of operations. The catch, however, is that the old pricing formula, whose rationale no longer exists, which ensures a guaranteed profit of 17 percent to the Sui Southern and 17.5 percent to the Sui Northern, continue to operate. The formula should have remained operative for the pendency of the loans the gas companies had taken from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, but somehow they have continued to enjoy the luxury of high profit in disregard of the plight of the housewife whose budget is constantly being squeezed as a result of across-the-board price inflation. The government is supposed to have done an exercise reassessing the formula to rationalise the rate of return but, for unknown reasons, has shelved the implementation of its decision. An urgent revision is called for at this stage of a feared economic meltdown when sources of lending money other than the IMF that is known for imposing hard conditionalities on the debtors have apparently dried. Under the circumstances, the IMF is expected to insist on a further rise in the interest rate and a widening the tax net. The argument about interest rates is partly justified because it would limit the government borrowing, but would prove a great disincentive for those sectors of the economy that need the infusion of money to develop and thrive and ultimately turn out to be counterproductive. There would be no harm in spreading the tax net to include those sectors that have been unfairly left out. Whether we get funds from the IMF or not, the government must also ensure that leakages in tax are plugged.