Egypt hit by new fuel shortage, authorities promise solution

Ahram Online , Tuesday 10 Mar 2015

The reported shortage comes ahead of a widely-publicised economic conference, through which Egypt hopes to bring in investments worth billions of dollars

File photo: An Egyptian woman carries a child while as she walks past vehicles jamming a gas station that ran out of fuel supplies, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, Monday, March 11, 2013. (Photo: AP)

Egypt's petroleum minister said on Tuesday that his ministry would inject large amounts of petroleum products into the market to tackle a reported diesel and gasoline shortage of several days that has caused long queues outside filling stations.

"An emergency group is working to solve the problem by providing more fuel and following up with major gas stations to ensure fuel is available," the Ahram Arabic news website reported Sherif Ismail as saying at the Cabinet's economic committee meeting.

The minister's comments come just days before Egypt's widely-publicised economic conference in Sharm El-Sheikh from March 13 to 15.

The country has invited dozens of countries and international institutions to the three-day summit, and hopes it will bring in investments worth billions of dollars to patch up a battered national economy.

For several days, there have been reports in Cairo and several other governorates of a shortage in diesel and gasoline octane 80, both types of fuel mostly used by truck and taxi drivers.

The shortage has prompted drivers to form long queues outside gas stations, creating traffic jams in several spots around the capital and in other governorates.

In one instance, scuffles broke out between at a filling station in the Sharqiya governorate.

Also on Tuesday, the petroleum ministry said it would be providing the market with 40,000 tonnes of diesel on a daily basis as well as 18,000 tonnes of different petroleum products, which should cover people's needs.

"People should not react to rumours [of fuel price hikes] that affect the stability of the petroleum product market, and create a state of confusion as well as unjustified crowding outside filling stations," the ministry however added, blaming the queues for fuel on a rumour.

Egypt has been suffering from an acute energy crunch, since several foreign oil companies suspended extraction due to increasing arrears after the 2011 uprising.

In July of last year, the government partially lifted its energy subsidies, which led to an 80-percent rise in prices.

Authorities defended the decision as an attempt to better manage the national budget, of which energy subsidies in 2013 comprised nearly 25 percent.

Before this decision was enforced, long lines formed outside gas stations, as drivers hoped for a final low-priced tank fill.

In 2013, a similar fuel shortage was one of the reasons behind popular anger and mass protests against Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, before his ouster.

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