By midnight last night when most of the nation was fast asleep – save for the odd pub-crawlers and those workaholics whose Spartan schedules extend into the late hours – hundreds of petrol attendants at filling stations across the country were again adjusting the prices charged per litre. And motorists who are literary caught between a rock and a hard place have no choice but to dig deeper into their pockets. Hardly a month has passed since we had previous fuel increase and this midnight’s retail hike of N$0.50 cents/litre for both Lead Replacement Petrol (93), for Unleaded Petrol and the same margin for Diesel will be a record sixth since the beginning of the year and we are still counting. Motorists filling up at Noordoewer will have to pay the most as the price tag for a litre of LRP (93) will be N$6.80 while ULP (95) will cost N$0.02 cents more per unit and diesel will now cost N$6.88 cents/ltr. Because Walvis Bay is the point of entry for the large tankers bringing fuel to Namibia, residents there will only pay N$6.59/ltr (93), N$6.42/ltr (95) and N$6.50 for a litre of Diesel. Indeed we agree with Mines and Energy Minister Erkki Nghimtina’s sentiment that Namibia neither produces nor refines oil of its own and that Namibians are therefore at the mercy of oil producing countries. As Namibia is not a member of that seemingly elite club – OPEC – whose members include neighbouring Angola and Nigeria among other African states, we think it is high time we considered sourcing this strategic resource from alternative and possibly cheaper sources. Just recently, a president of one OPEC member said his country would try to cushion skyrocketing global oil prices by selling this strategic resource to countries particularly in the developing category. Though the start-up capital needed to set up an oil refinery is simply prohibitive, we think it is high time that we start considering investing in this infrastructure. Once that is a cut-and-dried affair, the country could invite tenders for oil merchants to supply crude and get the cheapest tender for the benefit of consumers. This year has not been easy for motorists because each time they tried to adjust to the new prices, their plans were thrown into disarray or rather unsettled by one wave after another of price hike. Namibians should only draw consolation from the fact that our prices should be among the lowest if not the lowest in this part of Africa. Before the recent increase, prices were six percent lower in Windhoek compared to the industrial hub of Gauteng in South Africa where they have already breached the R$7.00 mark (or rather the Namibian equivalent of N$7 as the two currencies are on par trading one-on-one). Oil prices are on upward mobility because of China’s insatiable demand for fossil fuels and fears of future supply disruption due to geo-politics in the Middle East and hurricanes in the USA have not helped matters. And the only other piece of good news, though it remains to be seen whether prices will now start to go down, is the fact that oil prices have gone down due to the truce between Israel and Hezbollah. Another factor that pushed the prices down are reports about the above-average U.S. oil stockpiles and a lack of bad news that naturally tends to drive prices higher. But surely, OPEC can somehow put brakes on this upward mobility that does not augur well for ordinary people.
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