Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Petrol shortage continues to plague The Gambia

The petrol shortage that has hit The Gambia in the last couple of days has actually been in the making for a very long time.  What Gambians don't know is that there has been rationing of petrol in The Gambia for the past one month.

Gampetrol, the sole importer of petroleum products in the Gambia, has been supplying 20,000 liters per fuel company, alternatively, for the past one month.  In other words, Total Oil will receive 20,000 liters today, the next day Jah Oil, Elton, Galp and so on. This gave Gampetrol's Mr. Waidat cover to deny that there was any shortage of petrol in The Gambia when The Standard newspaper asked him few days ago about the problem.

Faced with a highly combustible situation, both literally and figuratively speaking, Gampetrol was busy pumping the last drops or what is known in the trade as 'dead stock' which is dirty fuel that 'kills' engines. Gambia is thus currently running literally on fumes until the next consignment of fuel is due in Banjul port.

Although there are reports that a vessel has arrived, it is not yet clear that any discharge will take place anytime soon.  Reports have it that the importer lacks the foreign exchange needed to have the petrol off-loaded.  We have officials on the ground who are in the position to know to provide us with up-dates.

 When Yaya Jammeh seized power, he found in place a system of procurement that encouraged cooperation and competition between the then major players - Shell, BP, Amdalaye Trading and Elf.  Shell being the biggest was the primary importer but others were encouraged to import, through the Balance of Payment Support Program of the European Union.  Shell always provided storage at its Half-Die facility.  This was the system in place after the ERP to address the endemic problem which plagued The Gambia then. 

Jammeh dismantled the system and created Gampetrol.  He then decreed the company monopoly right to import petroleum products.  Until and unless this unfair business practice is abandoned in favor of an open market system whereby anyone with the means can import, this problem will continue to plague The Gambia which, in turn, will continue to impede economic growth and development. 

Meanwhile, we will monitor the situation to see if Gampetroleum will come up with the necessary foreign exchange needed for discharge to take place.  If Mr, Bazzi cannot come up with it, no delivery will take place and the ship will continue on its Atlantic journey.