Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government is negotiating with several shipping companies to import fuel into the country at discounted rates to help buffer soaring gas prices, according to Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis yesterday.
Mr Davis said his administration was able to successfully negotiate with one of those companies, but he did not disclose which one.
This comes as gas prices continue to rise locally, which is largely due to the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war and the subsequent sanctions imposed to ban Russian oil imports.
In early March, The Tribune reported that over a two-week period, motorists in New Providence, especially those who frequent Rubis gas stations, had faced a dramatic price hike. The supplier’s price at the pumps was $5.16 per gallon in mid-February - below its competitors.
By March 2, that price had risen to $5.52. While Shell stations did not increase during that time frame, remaining at $5.37, Esso rose by five cents, increasing from $5.19 to $5.24.
However, this week, fuel costs shot up to over $6 per gallon at all major providers in New Providence. Shell’s fuel costs are the highest among providers at $6.25 followed by Rubis at $6.19 and then Esso at $6.16.
“What I have been doing is exploring ways and means of putting up mechanisms for the challenge of inflation and that includes the cost of oil,” Mr Davis said of the rising prices at a press conference yesterday.
“What I have done is we have engaged with several of our shipping airlines, shipping agencies and I have been able to work out an engagement with one of them that has already agreed and has already put into effect the reduction of the cost of containers coming into the country.
“I don’t want to identify them because you don’t want a challenge as to what they’re charging but we have negotiated up to 38 percent discount on containers coming to The Bahamas, particularly from the Far East and we are waiting to hear what that discount will be from Florida and those are the efforts we have been engaged in to assist in mitigating the inflation and impact.”
Earlier this year, Bahamian consumers and businesses were warned to brace for gasoline prices to hit $6 per gallon this month after the Ukraine crisis sent oil prices soaring to seven-year highs.
Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell has predicted a high of $8 per gallon of gas this spring.
Economic Affairs Minister Michael Halkitis has said the situation is out of the government’s control due to international market fluctuations sparked from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“There’s not much we can do given our economy and the fact that we’re still emerging from a COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated our economy and a lot of other economies,” he told reporters last week.
“And it has caused a significant run up in the debt in The Bahamas and so we are managing our way out of it and hopeful that the volatility that we’ve seen will normalise in the shorter rather than the longer term.”
Mr Halkitis also reiterated that the government was not considering cutting the rate of taxation on fuel imports to help keep costs down as some places like Barbados have done.
“We are not unsympathetic. We are very sympathetic because the nature of our economy is rising energy prices impact the cost of transportation. We import most of what we produce so that means that price impact will be felt through that. The price of gas at the pump for individuals and taxi drivers and bus drivers and all of that and so we are quite aware, but we have to look at everything in (the) complete context of our financial sustainability and building headroom coming out of this pandemic,” Mr Halkitis added.