Iraq to implement fuel-rationing programme

IRAQ’S GOVERNMENT is set to implement a coupon system in order to ration fuel for next winter. The move comes as black market sales of oil products soar in the war-torn country.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  August 7, 2005

IRAQ’S GOVERNMENT is set to implement a coupon system in order to ration fuel for next winter. The move comes as black market sales of oil products soar in the war-torn country. Since the April 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime the supply of oil products, especially gasoline, has been effectively — if not officially — rationed. Iraqis have been forced to stand in lines of up to two hours at the pump to get fuel with the only alternative being to buy gas on the black market at dramatically hiked prices. A litre of gas at the pump is US$0.01; on the black market it sells for US$2.5. Rationing aims to put a dent into the black market sale of oil products “and lead to more equitable distribution for all Iraqis”, according to Assem Jihad, Iraq’s petroleum ministry spokesman. Petroleum Ministry officials have formed a committee aimed at creating a system of coupons to ration petroleum products, especially gasoil and kerosene used for heating and running power generators. “We expect that system to be ready before next October,” Jihad said, adding that a coupon system has been used successfully in the Kurdish semi-autonomous region. The demand for fuel, especially gasoline, has been aggravated by the import of more than one million cars after the fall of Saddam. Aside from difficulties getting fuel and water, Iraqis also have to put up with long periods without electricity, which in turn aggravates the fuel shortage. Furthermore, Samira Al Moussaui, an MP with the conservative Shiite majority, believes the government needs to start holding someone accountable for energy shortcomings. Blackouts hit the capital especially hard, where it affects around 92% of Baghdad’s 1.1 million households each year. “The government’s first duty is to improve the infrastructure in Baghdad,” said Moussaui. “We have not asked for anyone to be accountable for this over the last two years,” she added, referring to the period under the US-led administration and the interim government that followed, which ended in May. In a demonstration of rising frustrations, residents of the poor Baghdad Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City recently physically attacked a government worker who came to demand that they pay overdue electrical bills.

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