By Edrissa Jallow, @EdrissaJallow10
The Gambia Government has reached an agreement with Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to maintain the price of fuel for the month of September 2022 after Pump Stations refused to provide fuel to customers yesterday 2nd September 2022. A statement published today by Government Spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh revealed that over D5.6 Million was spent on Government Subsidies on Fuel in September 2022 alone.
However, yesterday in the heat of the strike between the OMCs and the Government, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA), Hon Seedy S Keita informed the public that there is adequate fuel in the country but a private sector-led strike amidst demands to increase the pump price has caused the shortage. Hon Keita made these revelations during a televised interview on the National Broadcaster Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) during the evening news.
According to Finance Minister Hon Keita, there is “adequate fuel in the country and GNPC, the petroleum company, is selling petroleum at its depot”. However, “what is happening is the select private sector OMCs are the ones that choose not to be supplying oil”.
“If you look at what has been happening [in] the oil sector, the government has been subsidizing oil from January to July of this year (2022) to the tune of 1.2 Billion (Dalasi) compared to what we were expecting to receive as revenue from this sector for the whole year of 3 billion (Dalasi).” He continued that “even though oil prices are going down, the level of subsidy that the government has already given is more than 1.2 billion (Dalasi)”.
According to the Minister, the “status co cannot continue. So, with the declining oil price, what we (the government) did is we looked at the prices in structure and certain elements of the price structure such as the importer margin and the traders’ premium margin were revised downward in other to reduce the level of subsidy so that some element of revenue can approve to this state”.
Fuel Subsidies Reach D1.3 Billion from Jan to Sep 2022
Our reporters have observed a significant number of commuters yesterday on the roadside who were unable to get a vehicle resulting in large crowds of people walking alongside the road. To compound matters, there were very few commercial vehicles plying the streets as others parked their cars due to the lack of Diesel and Petrol.
Hours after the fuel shortage Government Spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh issued a press release highlighting that “following hours of meetings and intense negotiations with Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) today, The Gambia Government is pleased to announce that filling stations across the country have resumed selling fuel with immediate effect. Prices of petrol and diesel remain unchanged”.
“Significantly, the Barrow Government has from January 2022 to date provided at least, 1.3 billion Dalasis in fuel subsidies to help stabilize the prices. The subsidy for September 2022 alone is some 5.6 million Dalasis,” read the statement.
Below is a chart showing the fluctuation of fuel prices from January to September 2022 using data from Atlas Energy Limited and the Gambia Government.
The Gambia has been experiencing fuel shortage this year given the huge increases that have taken place between March to May and June to July. This has seen drivers threaten to increase the price of transport fares which are generally pegged at D10 for most journeys. Longer journeys usually cost more.
Speaking to a number of drivers Gainako can confirm that fuel prices have stayed the same at a cost of D75 per litre while Petrol is still going at D79.89 per litre. However, The Ministry of Finance intervened in a tweet barely 10 hours after fuel scarcity across the country, stating that September 2022 fuel pump prices remain the same.
Transport Union to Order Increment of Transport Fares Soon
Speaking to the President of the Gambia Transport Union (GTU), Mr Omar Ceesay in an exclusive interview he informed our reporter that he is 99% in support of a Transport Union sanctioned increment on transport fares. In his view even if the price of fuel remains the same transport fares should increase. “Whether fuel increases or not presently [we are] 99% [in favour of] increasing transport fares,” said the Transport Union President.
According to the Transportation Union President, the price of transportation fares is negotiated by the Government and Stakeholders and approved by the Minister of Transport. Currently, an agreement has been reached to increase the price tariff of transportation fares which is currently awaiting government approval.
“To increase the pump price that’s a no-go area as far as we are concerned. Recently, we were struggling, we were bleeding. If this government wants to increase the pump price that means we are going to die,” he said.
According to Mr Ceesay, the cause of the fuel shortage across the country in his view is due to tax issues as “the government of the Gambia and the OMC (Oil Marketing Company) are discussing some tax involved between the two parties”. He revealed that he “knows that the government and the OMC [have been involved in] discussing this over one-month now” but they are not aware of the details of the negotiations.
The Transport Union President urged drivers to be patient as the GTU is “monitoring the situation”.
*After publication, an additional comment has been included in the second paragraph under the last section of the report.