Consumer rights advocate blasts ‘ridiculous’ fuel price rises
Consumer rights advocate Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt is asking Government to explain “how in God’s name” it came up with a formula that would lead to a “ridiculous” six per cent rise in the price of gasoline.
As of midnight on Sunday, Barbadians are paying $2.79 per litre of gasoline, up 16 cents, following an earlier increase of five cents in the prices of both gasoline and diesel and an increase of two cents in the price of kerosene on April 10.
The latest price rises came on the heels of an announcement last month by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler of a significant drop in Government’s fuel import bill last year when compared to 2014, with the Freundel Stuart administration saving as much as $193 million on its petroleum bill.
Sinckler said at the time that Government spent about $452,400,000 on fuel imports for 2015, compared to $645,400,000 in 2014, a savings of 30 per cent.
Gibbs-Taitt projected even higher savings of $350 million this year and questioned the logic behind the latest price increases.
“How in God’s name can the Government come to this ridiculous conclusion? . . . Where are the monies going?” he asked in an email to Barbados TODAY.
“At best, this is a clear case of Government’s gross mismanagement of the nation’s financial affairs,” he added.
The activist argued that with oil prices still below US$50 per barrel, and with the announced savings, Barbadians ought to be paying less, not more, for petrol.
“Since the 30 per cent decrease in [the] fuel import bill to the Government, how much percentage has been passed on to the consuming public by way of lower fuel prices at the pump? Just this morning (yesterday) the [retail] price of gasoline was increased by 16 cents to $2.79 per litre. When I saw this, I guessed that war must have been declared somewhere in the Middle East. Not so,” declared Gibbs-Taitt in the email.
“The question has to be, how much of these huge savings have been passed on to consumers, both by merchants and, particularly, our Government? One would have thought that with these decreases in fuel costs, consumers would have benefited by decreases in the price of goods and services. Instead, prices are higher than ever.”
Gibbs-Taitt compared the average crude oil price in March 2014 to the cost of a barrel of oil today, recalling that two years ago the price was US$104.04 per barrel, while oil currently sells at US$44.71 a barrel.
He also recalled that two years ago Barbadians paid $3.18 per litre at the pump.
“What would have informed the Government to increase the gasoline price at such a ridiculous increase?”
Following the announcement of the latest price rises, Barbadians took to social media to express their disapproval, with some viewing the decision with cynicism while others were bluntly sarcastic.
“16 cents per litre on gas? Did the USA bomb Saudi Arabia or something to cause such a spike in oil prices”? asked poster Santini More on Barbados TODAY’s Facebook page.
“I wonder if this has anything to do with the sale of a particular asset?” asked another poster, Ryan Henry, a clear reference to a recent announcement by Sinckler that the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited was close to being sold. Adding several question marks for emphasis, Henry added: “Things that make you go hmmmmmm.”
“Them always squeezing we. I feeling manipulated in my own country by powers at be. 16 cents is a lot of money and [the] b*****d roads is pure stress,” posted someone using the moniker Javier Maynard, while poster Philip Matthews complained: “That is 60 cents a gallon , thus $6 more to fill a 10 gallon tank.”
In addition to the increase in the price of gasoline, the price of diesel rose from $1.83 per litre to $1.88, an increase of five cents. Kerosene now retails at 84 cents per litre, an increase of one cent, while consumers are now paying $152.99 for a 100-pound cylinder, an increase of $2.43 cents. The 25-pound cylinder rose by 61 cents to $43.35, while the 22 pound cylinder jumped by 53 cents to $38.31and the 20-pound bottle rose to $34.83, an increase of 49 cents.
“These adjustments in retail prices are due solely to changes in the CIF (cost, insurance and freight) of these refined products,” the Barbados Government Information Service quoted the Division of Energy as explaining.