THE government appears to have tacitly adopted a “do-nothing” policy in the fuel sector as the recently announced agreement with the Libyans is still far from a done deal,
the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
The Independent heard this week that the deal depended largely on the government crafting a plan that would enable it to pay off its debt and then pay for new supplies.
“That stage has not been reached and there is still wrangling over the transfer of assets to the Libyans,” a fuel industry source said this week.
President Robert Mugabe anno-unced last year that the government would stop importing fuel for private players. The government has not announced any policy since then but insists that the fuel sector is strategic and has to be regulated.
On the ground the government has allowed the black market to flourish with private dealers bringing in fuel.
The absence of policy has resulted in a multiple-tier pricing regime in which dealers charge according to demand. There are the gazetted prices where petrol costs $450 a litre and diesel $200 for fuel sourced from Noczim.
On the other hand, there is fuel from dealers who set their own prices. This can be as much as US 60c a litre or its equivalent. There is also a third tier on the black market where fuel sourced from garages at the gazetted price is re-sold in containers of various sizes at between $2 000 and $2 500 a litre.
Industry sources this week said 70% of Zimbabwe’s fleet was running on fuel sourced at prices above the gazetted tariff.
The sources said the government was expected to make a policy decision next week to normalise the situation. They said the three months of chaos in the industry worked well for the government.
“Trade on the black market has conditioned motorists to buying expensive fuel,” said a fuel marketer.
“If the government increases the price now to say $1 000 a litre, it will not hurt the motorist much since he has been buying the fuel at well over that price,” he said.
He said the government was aware of the policy error it made in March when it increased the price of fuel without addressing the supply side.
“The government will only make a price adjustment after it has put in place deals that will bring in meaningful volumes. It is foolish to increase the price of a commodity that is not available,” he said.
However, police this week maintained that selling fuel above the gazetted price was still illegal.