Like many other Dominicans, economist Dr. Thomson Fontaine was baffled when he heard the news of yet another price increase in the cost of fuel in Dominica.
But unlike many other Dominicans who remain silent while struggling to cuff up additional funds at the pump, Fontaine is challenging the government to show proof of the justification for a price increase.
“I am actually concerned about the fact that there is no transparency in terms of how the calculation is made, show us how you arrived at this figure,” the economist demanded.
Effective Tuesday, May 3, the government announced new measures “to keep fuel prices under control” in light of the continued increase in the global price of oil.
According to a press release from the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Trade price analysis for petroleum products published the following under current price, new price, and change (+).
The figures were: Gasoline $14.89 per gallon(current), $16.52 per gallon (new), and $1.92 per gallon (increase); diesel $13.91 per gallon(current), $16.15 per gallon (new), $2.67 per gallon (increase) and kerosene $12.18 per gallon (current), $14.14 per gallon (new) and $2.45 per gallon (increase).
The release states that the cabinet has consequently decided to remove the customs service charge on gasoline and diesel with immediate effect.
In addition, Cabinet is granting subsidies equivalent to 60 cents per gallon on the importation of gasoline and 21 cents per gallon on the importation of diesel until the retail price of each product returns to below $15.00 per gallon.
Therefore, with immediate effect, the prices for petroleum products are as follows: gasoline EC$ 15.58 per gallon, diesel EC$ 15.58 per gallon, and kerosene EC$ 14.14 per gallon.
However, Dr. Fontaine argues that placing into context the current downward trend in international pricing of fuel and oil, there is no justification for a price increase at this moment.
“We have a situation where the price of oil is fairly stable and significantly below where it was at its highest point. Secondly, looking forward there is an understanding that it may not rise any further so I am at a loss as to why there is an increase – the highest since this crisis- and why at this time?” the economist questioned.
He is of the view that the fuel price increase locally is meant only to increase government revenue and not to benefit the citizens of Dominica and is calling on the officials to prove him wrong.
“So it is very unfortunate,” Dr. Fontaine said. “I personally believe that this could have been cushioned…I do not believe that the price increase at this time is warranted, given where the oil prices are. I don’t think it’s justified and if the government wants to prove me wrong, what they need to do is to make the calculations that they do public. I see no reason why it is those calculations that they use to project the prices are not made public because there seems to be a fundamental flaw in this.”
Vice President of the Petroleum Retailers Association, Hubert Winston views Dominica as a pawn on a chessboard in the international market and says that while it would be ideal to decrease the cost of fuel, international supply and demand affects the hand which we are dealt.
“We have no say in fuel prices,” he told the Sun. “The pricing structure which has been handed to us is not foreign to us. It’s something that we get due to the players involved in the world market. Now, a lot of it is not even a supply problem, a lot of it is speculation.
“So if they speculate that because of the war in Ukraine, and the sanctions against Russia supply will be curtailed, then they will increase prices overnight. Which has no bearing on supply, it’s just a gut feeling that it will affect supply around the world. So then the price goes up,” he further explained.
The vice president of the association stressed that such time is the right time for small countries like Dominica to look at alternative fuel and energy sources such as geothermal, the exploration of wind turbines and solar energy as well as electric vehicles to lessen their dependence on hydrocarbon fuel.
-By Ronda Luke