Quenching Iran's thirst for petrol

Iranians have mixed feelings on new smart card aimed at rationing consumption.

    Iran's roads are clogged with cars,
    all running on cheap gasoline

    Tehran is suffocating.

     

    The heart of the world's fourth largest oil producer is skipping beats, choking on the smug of its burning petrodollars.

     

    Petrol consumption has hit a record 70 million litres a day, forcing the government to think about a solution to control the skyrocketing petrol subsidies and their adverse ramifications.

     

    A smart card is supposed to be the main component of the solution.

     

    The card is designed for every car and motorcycle on Iran's roads.

     

    From now on, Iranian motorists are obliged to use their smart cards to whenever they want to fill their tanks.

     

    For now, they can have as much petrol as they want, but that will soon change too – as the smart card is supposed to pave the way for a petrol-rationing system.

     

    Capacity

     

    Many people make their living by moving passengers in their private cars. Many people do not know what will happen

    Iran
    lacks the refining capacity to meet its booming fuel consumption. It had to import $5.5bn worth of petrol in the year that ended in March.

     

    But Iran is not willing to import any more than $2.5bn this year, simply because there are better ways to spend the $3bn difference.

     

    A government official has said a rationing system will be implemented as of June 21, but the details of that plan are not yet clear.

     

    There are debates between the government and the parliament over how and when to apply the rations.

     

    Petrol is now sold for about 11 cents per litre, a 25 per cent rise on last year’s price.

     

    Confusion

     

    Many people don't like the idea of being forced to use smart cards for what something that used to be so simple - filling their tanks so cheaply.

     

    "Many people make their living by moving passengers in their private cars. Right now, many people have become confused and do not know what will happen," said Rahim Kashi, a resident of Tehran.

     

    Gasoline consumption has risen in
    Iran as prices have remained low
    Another resident says that the rationing system could have a sobering effect on the Iranian public's attitude towards cheap petrol.

     

    Hossein Bassam Raz said: "The fact that in Iran a bottle of water is more expensive than one litre of petrol is unfair. I believe if petrol rationing starts and continues, people will find out its real value."

     

    The mixed reaction to such a minor infringement on people's already tough daily lives, has led to warnings by critics that petrol rationing's fallout may be truly harsh.

     

    The fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, swept to power on a promise of easing the plight of the poor only makes matters worse.

     

    There are concerns that rationing petrol consumption may create a wave of social discontent that the government would struggle to cope with.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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