Falling Short: Amman's November Gas Crisis!

الإثنين 17 تشرين الثاني 2008

Words & Multimedia By: Naseem Tarawnah

Some of the most remarkable scenes have emerged on the streets of Amman these past 48 hours. Word that gas stations were refusing to sell their fuel supplies began to spread on Saturday and gained momentum as the work week began Sunday morning. By 5pm drive-home traffic time, some of Amman’s street were packed with what felt like thousands of cars, all lining up for a chance to fill up. Stations have been at odds with the government after the latter decided to reduce fuel prices for the sixth time since August. Having bought their fuel at a higher price and forced to sell at a new and reduced price, many stations have shut down in protest, while at least 17 others have gone bankrupt. Police forces have descended upon every gas station open for business to help allay any possible violent outbursts, while managing the long queues, some of which stretch for well over 1km. Asking a few motorists who were waiting as patiently as the circumstance allowed, some told me they had been in line for over an hour, hardly moving a few meters in the direction of the gas station’s entrance. Meanwhile, sirens could readily be heard, blazing across the city, as I sighted at least one oil tanker swooping past the airport road highway with what seemed to be a police escort.

gas shortage amman

What is perhaps interesting, at least from my point of view, is that this sudden crisis comes nearly a year after the government decided to lift fuel subsidies. The result has been a painstaking year for the average Jordanian as globally, a barrel of oil reached over $120 driving up local prices to unbearable amounts. The digits on the pumps have only very recently sunk to less than half that figure, in line with the impact of the global financial crisis. However, since the controversial lifting of fuel subsidies in Jordan, some might argue that station owners enjoyed a relatively decent killing in the market for a fairly long time. It is only now that stations are forced to sell consumers at the government-set rate, meaning a relative loss for them, that the industry’s muscles are being flexed. One important question remains: will we see a return of a limited subsidy granted by the government to station owners in order to get them back running, or will we simply see bankruptcies in the industry flowing like tumbling dominoes? Will stations be fined or is another compromise in the works?

In either case, it seems the consumer is still at a disadvantage. One either has to pay the high price during “normal” periods or be burdened with the perils of a shortage. In the meantime, it will also be interesting, if not difficult, to see how long this shortage will last and just what effect it will have on other key industries that fuel runs: such as bakeries.

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