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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Iran government wants to begin rationing gasoline from March

By Reuters

Iran's interior minister said on Saturday the government wants to ration gasoline for the next Iranian year beginning March 21 despite parliament's wish to introduce dual pricing instead.

Iran, the world's fourth biggest crude producer, has to import about 40 percent of the 70 million liters of gasoline it uses each day because of insufficient refining capacity.

"The government insists on rationing the gasoline to keep prices stable and prevent economic problems," Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi was quoted by Tosea newspaper as saying.

Gasoline is sold at $0.09 per liter in Iran, where people see cheap abundant fuel as a right, but economists believe cheap gasoline encourages excessive consumption and a lucrative trade in contraband fuel to Iran's neighbors.

"The parliament's idea is that the government should ration the gasoline produced in Iran and sell imported gasoline for the market price," Pourmohammadi said. "Government has approved rationing and no gasoline supply beyond the ration."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will submit his government's proposed budget to parliament on Sunday. All items in the budget will need parliament's approval before being implemented.

Tosea also quoted Pourmohammadi as saying the government has proposed $2.5 billion for gasoline imports in the next Iranian year budget but if the parliament does not approve the government's rationing system, that amount will be higher.

The parliament has approved a total of $5 billion for gasoline imports in the current Iranian year, which ends on March 20. At peak periods, a tanker of gasoline arrives at Iranian docksides every couple of days.

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