8 May 2007 - 20:14
  • News Code: 104170
Iran Minister Sees No Need to Delay Gasoline Rationing

TEHRAN – Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Seyed Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh here Tuesday voiced his ministry’s readiness to enforce the law on gasoline rationing as of due time, May 22.

He made the statement in a classroom at a junior high school, where he taught principles of energy efficiency to students as a gesture of honoring the instructors at the “Teacher Week”.

Vaziri-Hamaneh told reporters almost al of the fuel smart cards had been distributed and just a small portion, due to the lack of car owners’ full addresses, had been left in post offices.

“Rationing is one of the main ways to reduce fuel consumption,” underlined the minister, adding the lawmakers had prescribed the strategy.

“Hence, Petroleum Ministry has put the rationing on agenda and it will stop doing the job only if another law is passed.”

Earlier in the day, the Energy Committee of the Majlis (Iranian parliament) mounted an overt opposition to the state plan to ration gasoline, arguing that “it would entail negative consequences”.

Seyed Abdolmajid Shoja, a committee member, told IRNA, “Due to the negative social consequences of the plan, members of the committee are working to stop it.

"Corruption and social pressures on car owners are among the unacceptable outcomes of this initiative."  

Shoja added more than two million gasoline smart cards had not yet been issued, and 400 stations had not been equipped with POS (Point of Sale) devices.

Another top MP said Monday that Iran needed to postpone the plan until September.

“The plan, aimed at reducing the lavish subsidies that keep petrol prices low, should be put off as the technology to enforce the rationing is not ready,” the Energy Committee Head Kamal Daneshyar added.

“Based on the studies of our committee the ground is not ready to implement the rationing using smart cards, so we have to give another chance to the government,” said Daneshyar.

“We have received reports that the devices for reading the smart cards break down quickly and some pumps end up working backwards. This means that instead of pumping petrol they suck up the petrol from the vehicles.

“Therefore, until these problems are addressed, the rationing project has to be postponed until around end of September."

The lavish consumption by Iranian drivers, encouraged by the subsidized prices that work out less than a comparable amount of mineral water, forces OPEC’s No. 2 producer to import billions of dollars of extra petrol annually.

The government has yet to confirm whether the plan will be delayed, but after such explicit comments by the head of the committee that drafted the legislation, it appears unlikely the plan can go ahead on time, commented AFP.

There is a consensus in Iran that this colossal burden on the budget cannot continue but the government is aware that Iranians have become very used over the years to cheap petrol.

Economists have also warned that the rises in petrol prices could further stoke inflation in Iran, which is already a source of concern to the government and is estimated by parliament at over 20 percent.

Tehran has been abuzz with talk about the change with advertisements in newspapers and television urging people to obtain the smart cards to buy their petrol.

The liberal use of the motor car encouraged by the cheap prices has also caused some of the region’s worst traffic congestion in Tehran, where motorists can be caught up in snarls for hours on end.

However Iranian Deputy Petroleum Minister Mohammadreza Nematzadeh denied that the government was looking for a way out of the plan, saying that the billions spent on petrol imports meant the move was overdue.

“In addition to the 44.5 million liters of petrol produced in Iran, last year we imported five billion dollars of gasoline. If the rationing is not implemented this year, we are faced with importing 9.5 billion dollars worth of petrol.”

He said that in the last Iranian year ending March 2007, 74 million liters of petrol was consumed per day and the government expected this figure to rise to around 81 million liters per day.

Under the plan approved by the Iranian parliament in early March, Iranian motorists will have to pay a higher price for any petrol they buy above a certain rationed quota.

The quota has yet to be defined by the government.


News Code 104170

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