By LETRE SWEETING
Tribune Staff Reporter
A BUSINESSMAN claims a dire summer may await Bahamians as “hopeless” gas retailers doubt the government will address their profit margin concerns in its upcoming budget.
Vasco Bastian, vice president of the Petroleum Retailers Association, said yesterday: “Remember, if we can’t purchase fuel, people can’t drive their cars, people can’t put diesel in their generators, and bus drivers can’t buy diesel for their jitneys.
“For real this time, they just don’t have it. It’s only so much that we can do and we are there. Gas station operators in The Bahamas are desperate. There is no hope; they’re hopeless. It’s very disappointing.”
Retailers want a margin increase equal to seven per cent of the landed fuel cost. Their margins have not been adjusted in 12 years despite rising inflation.
Economic Affairs Minister Michael Halkitis has repeatedly said officials want a solution everyone can live with and that the government would not reduce its margin.
Mr Bastian said his association responded to a proposal the government submitted recently but hasn’t heard back since.
He noted that the changes have “to be done before the budget, and the budget is coming out on July 1”.
He added: “This is May, so whatever needs to happen, needs to happen between May and June so it could take effect July 1. At this point, I’m just lost for words. I don’t even know what to say. It’s like what do we do next?
“We just need to come to some conclusion to this matter. It’s been dragging on for 13 or 14 months. We just need some help and we continue to struggle in this industry.”
The retailers association has repeatedly threatened to disrupt gas services if the government fails to address demands but has never executed its threats.
“I mean,” Mr Bastian said, “it’s to the point where I would tell young people in this country, I don’t know if you want to invest in this economy if this is how you’ll be treated. I don’t know what to tell them to do. Can you really be all that you can be in The Bahamas? Where is that Bahamian dream? Where is that hope that you can be all that you can be in The Bahamas?
“You employ 25 people daily and you have to pay them every week and all you are asking the government for is to look at this again, this isn’t right. Something is wrong, we just want you to correct it.”
“The government doesn’t think that we deserve anything. The government doesn’t think we deserve to feed our family. The government doesn’t think we deserve to be operable or even profitable. That’s basically what they’re saying.”