By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Last year, 2022, marked a tumultuous year for the Gambia’s Fuel and Petroleum sector, beginning with the Government sanctioned investigation into the missing US$20 Million Gam Petroleum Fuel stockpile in January 2022. The rest of the year was marked by fuel price increases over the first half of the year, commercial driver strikes and threats from Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to shut down fuel pump stations.
Even though fuel prices have gone down this month featuring a record drop for petrol over the past year, transport fares have gone up by 30 to 12 per cent across the country. This publication interrogates the price trend of fuel for the year 2022 and highlights some of the market’s responses.
The Commissioner General of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) Mr Yankuba Darboe held a press conference with members of the press on Friday 6th January 2023. Speaking to journalists, the GRA Commissioner General highlighted that “when the Russia-Ukraine war started the cost of fuel went up”. He added that the government lost revenue from fuel subsidies to the tune of over D1.6 billion. “Government has sacrificed in totality over D1.6 Billion Dalasis as a subsidy” noted the GRA Chief.
According to Finance Minister Hon Seedy Keita’s 2023 Budget Speech delivered at the start of December 2022, the government provided “subsidies to the tune of D1.3 billion in the first three quarters of 2022, to ease the effects on the population”. This means that the government only lost D300 Million in subsidies for the fourth quarter of 2022. Highlighting the Government’s plans for 2023 on Fuel, the Minister notes that “as fuel prices have recently taken a downward turn, Government moves towards a gradual adjustment of domestic retail prices to recover losses in oil revenues”.
Over the year 2022, the price of fuel increased steadily from January to May followed by record-high increases in July for both Diesel (D9) and Petrol (D9.24) per litre. After the steep increases for the first half of 2022, the prices of fuel stayed relatively stable for the second half of the year. The lowest price drops came in October for Diesel (D-2) and in January 2023 for Petrol (D-2.89). Even though the price of fuel remained stable for the second half of 2022, the price of transportation fares increased in January 2023.
Some of the more notable activities which may have impacted the price of fuel include the stolen US$20 Million Gam Petroleum Fuel Reserve which has still not been accounted for. According to a report by Foroyaa Newspaper after months of investigations and the government taking the matter to court the two alleged perpetrators were acquitted and discharged by the Banjul High Court. The former General Manager Saihou Drammeh and Operations Manager lamin Gassama of Gam Petroleum Storage Facility were acquitted of eight criminal charges including economic crimes in July 2022.
In September 2022 the Gambia Government released a statement noting that it regrets “a call to strike action by The Gambia Transport Union at a time when the government is engaged in discussions with the Union to resolve the challenges confronting the sector”. In the same press release, it was noted that “38 new buses were launched to curb challenges in the sector” and they were listed to ply a number of routes. What is most interesting is the Government’s most recent press release on transport fares notes that it had agreed to Transport Fare increases with the Gambia Transport Union and other key stakeholders. However, the Government only communicated the price increases to the public via a press release on 16th January 2023.
Another key incident that occurred during the year was the Strike Threat by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to shut down their fuel pump stations. In a statement issued in October 2022, some 9 major OMCs raised concerns that “the government is recouping D17.99 per litre, compared to the OMC’s 78 bututs per litre… how does this make sense?” The OMCs which include Atlas (now Oryx), Jah Oil, Castle Oil, Star Oil and others threatened that “in the coming days, we will be forced to shut down our operations”. Eventually, the OMCs managed to come to some agreement with the government and failed to follow through on their fuel pump strike.