The price of gas per gallon reached an all-time high on New Providence yesterday, with Vice President of the Bahamas Petroleum Dealers Association Vasco Bastian saying it’s “definitely” the highest he has seen on the island in recent history.
As of this week, gas at Esso service stations stood at $6.48, Rubis was $6.67 and Shell was $6.35.
Because of the rising price of oil, petroleum dealers have been petitioning the government for a profit margin increase from the current fixed rate of $0.54 cents per gallon.
Bastian said while the association wasn’t promised any announcements in today’s budget communication, dealers intend to watch with baited breath in anticipation of any relief.
“I’m in praying mode. I know nothing of what is going to happen, but I am hopeful. I feel confident every time I go into the Office of the Prime Minister, I look at the man in his eyes, he looks me in my eyes and I’ve known Mr. Davis to be a very honorable, open, decent man and hopefully that will follow through with negotiations with the dealers,” he said while appearing as a guest on the Guardian Radio talk show Morning Blend Business.
“We all know the government doesn’t control the price of fuel, we all know they have their taxes and what their taxes are for. The government has a position on what it should do with regard to the taxes. I don’t know or even suggest what they should do with their taxes, but I know that dealers in this country cannot survive anymore with the $0.54. The price of fuel continues to rise and the more it rises, the more these dealers have to put out the same fuel and our margins are not the same.”
Gas prices are even higher on the Family Islands. Bastian said at last report the price per gallon on Long Island was $6.84 and Exuma was $6.99. He said that’s a consistent trend on the other islands.
Bastian said if gas prices continue to rise at their current pace, individual dealers and wholesalers will have to look at their business models to make cuts, primarily through possibly reducing staff by half.
But Bastian said even if the government doesn’t announce a shift in profit margins for dealers in the near future, it has other avenues of bringing relief to the industry.
“We pay business license on gross turnover. So, imagine if last year this time gas was $4.48 and gas this morning at some stations, Esso is $6.48, it was gazetted yesterday that Rubis was $6.67 and Shell is behind with $6.35 and that should adjust in a few days. So, imagine paying business license on gross turnover, not on net profit. So, areas like that, the government would be able to assist us,” he said.
“Also, gas stations are basically promoting credit cards but it’s a cash-based business. We are being penalized by certain financial institutions for bringing cash deposits to them, so that’s another thing that government can intervene and help us with.”
Bastian said whatever route the government chooses to assist motorists and the fuel industry, he is confident the Davis administration will remain open to listening to the plight of stakeholders.
“This government, and I don’t want to big up anyone, but this government has been very receptive and open to all of our issues. We just haven’t been able to close out the issues. But if we put 10 issues on the table, this government has been receptive to all of them. This is the first government in the last 10 years that has been open to dialogue with us. Previous administrations didn’t even entertain us, didn’t even acknowledge our letter,” he said.