Higher fuel price worries Suriname

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – This week, the price of a liter unleaded fuel at Suritex gas stations (Staatsolie’s retail branch) soars 20 cents to a record SRD 5.37, while super unleaded fuel sells at SRD 5.43 a liter. With a price of SRD 4.96 a liter, diesel remains under the SRD 5 limit, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (HI) announced yesterday.

Sol Suriname (Shell) general manager Mark Goede says his company expects price hikes to be effective next week, as “we have sufficient fuel left from the previous shipment.’ Meanwhile, the discussion about the so-called government take on fuel has restarted, while President Bouterse is holding meetings with the community to present his solutions to the high costs of living. Fuel prices have been rising this year mainly because of developments in the Middle East.

The region’s Trade ministers have discussed this issue during the recent meeting of COTED, the council of CARICOM Trade ministers. “We as Trade minister are doing our homework now and the intention is that a decision will be made during the upcoming heads of government summit to reintroduce the measures taken in 2008, when fuel prices were at record levels as well”, HI minister Michael Miskin tells de Ware Tijd. Those measures include cutting import levies on basic goods from outside CARICOM to zero.

Last Saturday, President Desi Bouterse met with the community of the Latour area. At that occasion, Vice President Robert Ameerali defended the need for the government take, while promising a 10 to 20% drop in prices of basic goods and services starting next week. Other possible solutions presented included assistance for mothers with more than four children, food parcels for lower income groups and after-school care. Robby Berenstein, chairman of labor confederation C-47, says there is only one solution for labor, namely “dropping the government take.” He does not agree with the Vice President’s arguments that dropping the government take would have no effect on prices and would hurt social benefits and subsidies.

Rashied Doekhie, chairman of the Association of Surinamese Manufacturers (ASFA), says he can sympathize with Ameerali’s arguments, but attention should be paid to stimulating the local economy too. As examples, he mentions including Surinamese products in the food parcels, and investing in existing and new production sectors. “They keep talking about stimulating the production sector, but now is the time to match these words with deeds”, says Doekhie, who calls for a more structured and a nuanced drop in the government take, instead of ad hoc price controls that have not worked for thirty years.


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