SOLVING ECONOMIC CRISIS – By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
For weeks, motorists in Sri Lanka continuously lined up in long queues to obtain diesel and petrol. It has turned out to be a daily routine at present. Many women line up in rows to receive LP Gas or kerosene while their husbands spend long hours in petrol queues. Thanks to swift action by the authorities, it appears that mile-long queues are diminishing gradually for petrol. Meanwhile, diesel queues are getting longer and longer. All of these were due to the adamant policies adopted by the authorities, causing a scarcity of dollars in Government coffers. Some blame the ex-Minister of Finance, Basil Rajapaksa, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the ex-Governor of the Central Bank, Nivard Cabraal, for the current adversity. Leaving aside who is to blame for the current adversity, the sudden increase in the Cost of Living has caused immense hardship to the public across the country. Equally, it has caused unemployment in many industries.
The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation claims that the regular supply of fuel to petrol stations is delivered three times a week, and the stocks are sufficient to last for about three days. But due to hoarding by stashers at filling stations, the supplies delivered to every petrol station become depleted within a few hours.
This is why customers have been forced to line up extended queues up to several kilometres. The Police reveal how hoarders greedily stockpile vast amounts of petrol, diesel and kerosene to sell at exorbitant prices. The Government instructs not to pump petrol and diesel into cans and bottles (except for farmers). Still, some individuals at various petrol stations obtain petrol and diesel in bottles. These crafty men, in turn, sell petrol and diesel to desperate customers at Rs.850 a bottle, particularly to stranded motorcyclists. All UK petrol stations are disciplined and never issue petrol to a bottle unless a customer approaches with a Government-approved sturdy can. It is up to the public not to stockpile or hoard petrol, diesel or kerosene as well, and politicians stop babbling wretched lies, the fuel problem in Sri Lanka is bound to continue.
Meanwhile, ‘an extracting pump’ (a cheap product) that enables drawing from fuel tanks into cars and cans seems to be in high demand. Illegal purchases of five litres of diesel are sold at Rs.1,500, and petrol Rs.1,300 which is more expensive than one pays at the pump in any petrol station. Customers claim that inferior quality or adulterated fuel can damage the vehicle engines and malfunction. There is another notion about 92-grade petrol.
Grade 92 petrol was the only fuel available in Sri Lanka recently. It has caused this ‘knocking’ syndrome in engines. Grade 92 petrol generates engine faults (motorists claim) when it is used on 95-grade engines and may develop component failure and overall safety. ‘Excessive Sulphur in kerosene can hinder the conversion characteristics of engine catalysts.’ It can give rise to engine ‘knocking.’ If the engine is damaged, the vehicle needs an expensive repair and replacement of spare parts. That could make motorists’ frustration double-fold during this period when the restrictions are imposed on imports.
Petrol grades (Octane 95 or Euro 93) were unavailable in any petrol station as of late in Sri Lanka. Only now limited supplies arrive at snail’s pace at petrol stations. Those who used 95 Octane had no choice but to pump 92 Octane during this pitiful period.
It will be only a matter of time before motorists who were compelled to use 92 instead of 95 Octane will find out whether their motor car engines function correctly. With the Government increasing overall taxes from midnight on the 1st of June 2022, motorists will be further pushed against the wall.
So far, the Police have arrested unlawful offenders selling petrol and diesel at exorbitant prices. The Police records reveal, one hundred and thirty-seven people were arrested for unlawfully hoarding petrol, diesel and kerosene while 429 were arrested for selling 27,000 litres of petrol, 22,000 litres of diesel and 10,000 litres of kerosene.
The Police were only able to raid illicit ‘dealers’ with the people’s help on ‘operational tips’ reported by the public. Consequently, Police quoted unique two special telephone numbers – 119 and 1997 for the public to inform of any illegal petrol, diesel or kerosene sales. The lines were open 24/7.
The empathetic standards of the current generation of Sri Lankans have diminished to such an extent that there exist no more humanitarian or compassionate grounds. When other citizens are suffering immeasurably, day and night on the roads, still some elements are quite complacent to try to make a fast buck by devious means. It is a pity what has happened to some sections of Sri Lankan society.
Unfortunately, the demoralisation started when the tsunami hit Sri Lanka many years ago. A drowning woman’s gold bangle was removed by an immoral man rather than giving his hand to rescue her from drowning. It was highlighted in all Sri Lankan media at that time. Similarly, crooks are using various deceitful means to earn an extra buck.
The Government went bankrupt (revealed last April 2022), and every effort is being pursued to find the much-needed dollars. Nevertheless, black marketeers become frantic in selling the hoarded petrol, diesel or kerosene to desperate customers depriving the Government of much-needed funds at this very moment, which is shameful.
Meanwhile, motorists, three-wheelers and motorcyclists desperately stand in queues for long hours. Although black marketeers become egoistic and think of utilising the prevailing situation one wonders whether they ever think of the Government or the public! It is pretty embarrassing, and what would the international world think of Sri Lanka?
The Petroleum Corporation is one of the Institutions that makes an immense loss. It is a mystery, in such circumstances, why they have to pay bonus payments three times a year to its staff? This is mind-boggling, and indeed it is food for thought.