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16.02.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: Fuel And Queues

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The spectacle of motorists queuing for fuel could be rightly attributed to speculative demand. Many are those who think that with the deregulation of the petroleum sector in sight, fuel prices will shoot up.

The queuing of vehicles for fuel began in Kumasi last week and now it is here with us in Accra.

Consequently, queuing, which used to be a common sight when the country was in crisis with its fuel supply, seems to be creeping back.

It is not only the taxi driver who is exceeding his daily demand but the private car owner also wants to make some saving by buying more fuel.

The Tema Oil Refinery(TOR)has said it has increased its supply by more than one million litres a day from the beginning of February. The big question is, If prices go up, what percentages will the margins be?

With that speculation,many motorists and people who use fuel are buying the commodity above their regular demand.

This can explain why TOR is saying that it has increased its supply to the oil marketing companies (OMCs).

But the companies also say that they are not getting enough.It is important to appreciate the point that nobody can stop people from speculating.It is their right.But the question is,How much can the motorists make by engaging in speculative buying? Not much.

However, the fuel retailer says any increase can result in the dwindling of his capital for the lifting of his fuel consignment.

The possibility of retailers trying to manage the situation cannot be ruled out.Besides, as TOR tries to ensure that supply flows,it cannot be said that it has increased the fleet of tankers that lift the commodity. As a result,the speculative demand could create the queuing that is around us.

We know that fuel keeps the wheels of the economy running and that is why crude oil has become so precious.The anxiety that any increase in fuel prices imposes on the people is one reason why the deregulation exercise should be carried out with tact.

The anxiety will be minimised when the OMCs are allowed to set their margins within a specified range.This will help to increase competition among them.It is said that competition brings about efficiency.

When this is done,motorists will become used to any price variation and the prevailing speculative demand will belong to history.The wait-and-see attitude of fuel dealers that characterises annual national budgets will be gone too.

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