Fuel crisis eases yet tensions remains
Mohammed bin Sallam Published:01-08-2011
SANA’A, July 31 — With the new initiative of importing unleaded fuel and flooding the local market with it, the lines of cars waiting to refuel outside gas stations have ended. However, citizens across the country have complained that the increase in fuel prices, especially during the traditionally expensive season of Ramadan, has caused price hikes.
Some gas stations, such as one on Al-Khamseen Rd. in Sana’a, are selling regular fuel as unleaded or at the price of unleaded, according to locals. Customers have been told that they have instructions from the Ministry of Oil to do so in order to compensate gas stations for the financial losses incurred during the fuel crisis.
The crisis, which lasted for around three months, was caused by a shortage in local production as well as difficulty in transporting oil between cities due to insecurity. Minister of Trade and Industry, Hisham Sharaf, has taken the initiative of importing only unleaded fuel and selling it at the standard international price, double the price of regular fuel.
“This way we can end the black market, because the price at gas stations and in the black market will be similar, and there will be no point for citizens to purchase fuel through the black market,” he said.
He said that the state has distributed unleaded fuel to all the stations and those who are selling unleaded are violating the law. Some smugglers will be trying to get rid of the quantities they have of the regular fuel but soon the quantities will be over and only three stations in the each cities will be allowed to sell regular leaded fuel at the cheaper princes, those stations are to be announced later.
“We would like to warn people from buying fuel from the black market because there is no guarantee as to its quality and using bad fuel will damage vehicles,” he added.
However, there have been outbreaks of violence over fuel across the country. In Ibb governorate two men were killed over a quarrel regarding fuel at a gas station two days ago. In Al-Dhale’ governorate protestors blocked the main road between Sana’a and Aden, while protestors in Lahj burned a gas station and blocked the main road after a violent protest march.
In Hodeida, public transport drivers have been on a two day strike causing long delays for local commuters. And in Aden, women demonstrated in front of an oil company demanding a decrease in oil prices regardless of the type.
“The problem with Yemenis is that they are very emotional and many times short sighted. They only see the immediate results and do not understand long term consequences,” said consumer behavior researcher Amatalbari Al-Jawli.
“They were OK lining up for fuel for days as long as it was at the regular price. It was as if time did not matter. They were also forced to buy fuel at exaggerated prices on the black market, and that also did not matter,” she said. “Now that fuel is available and at a price less than what they used to find it on the black market, they are angry.”
She explained that even though Yemenis suffered high prices and scarcity during the crisis, they are more scared now that the high prices have became official, because this indicates that the change is not temporary.