Jul 03, 2022 News
…as citizens struggling with cooking gas and transportation prices in oil producing country
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – Just over a week ago, fuel prices made another jump at the pumps adding more pressure on already strained consumers. The Opposition has called on the government to help cushion the effects of high fuel prices which have braced transportation cost and even that of cooking gas. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo has nonetheless brushed off the Opposition’s suggestions calling it “cake shop” economics and that there is basically not much more that could be done by the administration to address the ongoing increases.
Economic and Youth Policy Advisor to the Opposition Leader, Elson Lowe has thus called the government’s inability to further address the fuel prices as “an admission of failure.” The youth advisor thus suggested to the government that it provides, among other things, fuel vouchers for cooking gas and subsidize fuel importers cost past a certain price.
“Our plan is simple,” Lowe submitted, “if the oil prices are above a predetermined level, importers will be compensated for the difference in cost above that pre-determined price. By absorbing this cost, government can ensure that the price of fuel is kept stable when it reaches the consumer.” This approach, he continued, should even be extended to other oil and gas industry products like cooking gas which has under gone a similarly punishing price spike. It was pointed out that Mexico for instance, has committed to doing just what the opposition is suggesting, “leveraging additional revenues from the oil price spike to bring fuel cost down domestically.”
In addition to compensating suppliers’, “cost of living can be further reduced by providing fuel vouchers to minibus drivers, farmers and canter operators to ensure they do not pass the rising cost of fuel on hard pressed Guyanese consumers.” Lowe insisted that the voucher idea is also a policy approach adopted in the Philippines and suggested that here in Guyana, for such a scheme to work the government would have to develop a transparent and accountable system to ensure the vouchers end up in the hands of whom they are intended.
Such measures will aid in ensuring that the tragedy of Guyanese skipping meals to combat surging food prices does not persist, Lowe said in reference to the Caribbean Community report that highlighted how some Guyanese were skipping meals to grapple with increased cost of living.
Lowe said that government needs to overcome their ignorance on fuel subsidies and act on the proposal to bring down and stabilise gas prices. “Given that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has no plan to combat historically high gas and oil prices, this grasping at straws is not surprising.” To openly admit that nothing more could be done by the government to address consumers strain, “is an outright admission of failure.” Lowe charged that, “no serious government, much less an oil producer would abandon its people to potentially far higher oil prices… without considering further measures.” He said that they are bankrupted of ideas and that their response is flimsy where they have declared that it would be difficult for the government to compensate suppliers to prevent high prices from being passed on to consumers.
Instead of excuses and criticism, the Opposition is adamant that the government must find ways to ease the burden arising from high fuel prices and high cost of living.
As recent as last Monday, local gas stations had seen another increase in fuel prices with gas for instance climbing to around $269 per litre from $250 per litre. Last year, the Government reduced the excise tax on gasoline and diesel from 35 to 20 percent so as to ease the domestic impact of the continuous rise in the world market price for fuel. The prices at the pump were reduced with immediate effect, with gasoline prices reducing from $213 per litre to $198 per litre, and diesel prices reducing from $200 per litre to $185 per litre, at the time. In March of this year, the excise tax on gasoline and diesel was removed completely.
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