'Devastating' effect

Tamin urged world players to halt the spiraling prices of crude, which have recently reached record levels above $140 a barrel.

"We think rich countries, oil-producing countries and the United Nations should deal with the issue urgently." he told the AFP news agency.

"Imagine a situation where crude hits 200 dollars a barrel. All  development in Bangladesh will stop," he said. 

The price rises are a major blow to Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries, where nearly 40 per cent of the 144 million population survive on less than a dollar a day.

The country's major political parties have criticised the government's latest move.

Syed Ashraful Islam, the acting general secretary of the Awami League, said "It's suicidal for the country. Poor people will be hard hit."

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which led the most recent elected government, said the price hike would be "devastating".

"We strongly condemn the fuel price hike. The poor and the farmers will be poorer as a result," said Rizvi Ahmed, a spokesman for the BNP.

Under the new rates, which started immediately, a litre of premium grade gasoline will be raised by 34 per cent to 90 takas ($3.42 per gallon).

Poor worst hit

Diesel and kerosene prices have been raised 37.5 per cent to 55 takas ($3.04 a gallon).

Liquefied petroleum gas, which is used mostly for cooking in areas without piped gas supply, saw the largest hike of 66.67 per cent.

A cylinder will now cost 1,000 takas ($14.81), instead of 600 takas ($8.89).

Fuel prices were last raised in April 2007.  Transport, commodity and food prices have all increased in Bangladesh in recent months.

Despite the price hike, the government will have to spend 100 billion taka ($1.45 billion) on fuel subsidies.

This accounts for 40 per cent of the South Asian nation's development budget.