Prime Minister Philip Davis, who recently met with members of the Bahamas Petroleum Retailers Association, said yesterday the government is “rethinking” the retailers’ plea for an increase in the fixed margin for fuel.
Davis’ comments came a day after the Office of the Prime Minister said the government was mindful of the retailers’ request for an increase in the margin but that the government “agreed to explore other avenues”.
Asked about the request for an increase, Davis said, “I think that was in response to what was said by the retailers at the time.
“That option we are now rethinking and reconsidering. That’s what I will say at this time.”
Davis met with members of the association on Monday.
“A lot of the challenges they face I’m sympathetic to and I understand their need to survive,” he said.
“I’ve asked them give us another two weeks to assess to see how we can help them.
“The challenge we have is how we prevent further burden on the traveling public and we need to see how we could delicately balance bringing relief to them, and at the same time not overly burdening the consumers.
“That’s what we are talking about.
“I must say that the retailers are willing and have been talking with us.
“It was a cordial meeting and I know sometimes that frustration does guide some people’s tongue. I can say that the meeting we had for several hours yesterday was fruitful.
“We think that we will be able to arrive at a solution that serves the common good of all.”
Last week, members of the association said they reached an agreement on the action they will take in response to the non-response by the government to their request for a change in the margin, which dictates the level of profits they earn.
Retailers earn 54 cents on a gallon of gasoline.
When a gallon of gas was $6.16 at the gas station, the gas station operators earned 54 cents and the petroleum wholesalers earned 34 cents.
The landed cost of the gas before value-added tax was $3.56 and $1.72 went to the government in duties and taxes.
Raymond Jones, association president, told reporters last Wednesday that his members reached the end of the line in suffering the losses they have been experiencing due to the inflexible margin they have long operated under.
When the Senate met on Thursday, Halkitis appealed to the retailers to talk with the government.
But he also said that the government is not prepared to entertain any increase in margins for petroleum retailers if it means the price of gas at the pump will increase.
“But, on this point, giving a margin increase that will lead to an immediate and direct cost of gasoline, there is no other way to say it, no way to dance around it, the government of The Bahamas is not prepared to do it,” Halkitis said.
“I know I have the support of my colleagues on that.”
On Sunday, Vasco Bastian, vice president of the association, asked Halkitis to reconsider his position.
“I’m very, very disappointed in the minister for economic affairs, Michael Halkitis, who is my friend and who I have looked up to and admired from an economic and political view for the last 30 years,” Bastian said.
“Why [does he have] a dislike for people who own and operate gas stations? I’m very, very disappointed and I ask that God will see, will look into his heart and ask him to change his position.”