Blame your own governments!" Gulf tells petrol protesters : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Blame your own governments!" Gulf tells petrol protesters Agence France-Presse Luke Phillips

September 13, 2000

DUBAI, Sept 13 (AFP) - Europeans protesting at the high price of petrol will find little sympathy in the tax-free paradises of the Gulf where oil can be cheaper than water.

Emirati national Ahmad Saleh placed the woes of western consumers firmly on the shoulders of their respective governments' economic policies.

"Prices in Dubai are good. There are no taxes, but there shouldn't be as the United Arab Emirates is an oil-producing country and we are proud of that, " Saleh said as a pump attendant filled his gleaming gas-guzzling American limousine.

"It is not the fault of OPEC, that's for sure. Oil prices are universal. It is the taxing system in place that makes the difference and hikes the prices," he said. "Blame your own governments."

With much of Western Europe gripped by protests over high fuel costs, residents in the oil-rich Gulf spurned criticism of OPEC and firmly blamed exorbitant taxes.

"I have just returned from my summer holidays in England," said one motorist. "I was absolutely horrified at the prices there. It cost three times as much to fill up a saloon car as it does my rather large four-wheel drive here."

"We could not run such a vehicle if we were to live back in Britain," she said. "(British Prime Minister) Tony Blair's in big trouble."

Blair, whose government is accused of cashing in on soaring world oil prices by keeping petrol taxes at an all-time high, has refused to budge, saying that he will not allow protesters to dictate economic policy.

"They have run out of petrol in my home village and the school buses can only run until Friday," said another Briton here. "I am glad I live here. Dubai could lose money on its low petrol prices but it suits us, the consumers. "

She warned, however, that the Emirates' lack of taxation had encouraged the "cult of the car. They are cheap to buy and even cheaper to run."

For Santosh, who has worked at forecourts across Dubai for several years, reactions at the pumps from European expatriates have been vocal but amusing.

"They always have a laugh at the expense of those loved ones back in their home countries," chuckled the Indian, who has never owned a car, does not know how to drive and is bussed to and from work every morning and night.

Petrol prices throughout the Gulf remain incredibly low, and a sizeable car or jeep costs less than 15 dollars to fill up.

In the Emirates, a litre of petrol costs 28 cents, while in Kuwait it is 21 cents and in Iraq it can be as low as just one cent, although it may not be of great quality and a car is beyond many Iraqi budgets.

Baghdad's Oil Minister Amer Rashid has said that his ministry was "charging refinery and transport costs only, with petrol itself being freely provided since it is a resource that belongs to the people."

Kuwait's Finance Minister Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah al-Sabah was quoted as saying Wednesday, meanwhile, that "we are not the cause of the current hike in oil prices ... but high taxes imposed by consuming countries on fuel."

"When oil prices dropped to seven dollars a barrel, no one from them cared about us. Is it halal (allowed) for them and haram (not allowed) for us?" Sheikh Ahmad asked.

Mahmud, a Kuwaiti national, said the protesters in Europe had got it right.

"It's good to see protesters in Europe placing blame on their governments for high taxes. At least they are not blaming OPEC for the hike," he said.

Well over half of Britain's 13,000 petrol (US: gasoline) stations have run dry, and many others are down to their last reserves as protesters continue to picket oil refineries and depots.

Protesters elsewhere in Europe, following on last week's French example, also took to the streets on Tuesday, with truckers, farmers, bus and taxi drivers blocking fuel depots and traffic on major roads.

The wave of protests was set off by a sharp increase in crude oil prices, which have been hovering near a 10-year high, despite OPEC's decision Sunday to hike output by 800,000 barrels a day from October 1 to cool the market.

The benchmark North Sea Brent crude price dipped below 32 dollars a barrel for October delivery in London Wednesday.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 14, 2000



Interesting post. It helps bring home some major reasons why it is so important to identify and understand all of the underlying causes that are giving rise to current problems. Without a far better understanding of all the factors that are affecting the energy sector and the price and availability of petroleum products, more social unrest can be expected. Civil disruption and anti-government demonstrations that are rooted in a partial or flawed understanding of a problem are not likely to lead to the long term amelioration of the situation. In addition, unless those in roles of public responsibility have an indepth understanding of all of the factors currently affecting the energy sector, they will continue to be ill prepared to develop and implement viable public policies that can help to ameliorate the current situation and they will be unable to help the public understand the complexities of the current situation, which acknowledged or not, include the malfunctioning of technological components and systems.

-- Paula Gordon (, September 14, 2000.

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