Saturday 19 September, 2020

Paulwell blasts Gov't for 'pushing up petrol prices'

Phillip Paulwell

Phillip Paulwell

Opposition Spokesman on Energy, Phillip Paulwell, is blasting the Government over its pricing formula at the state-owned oil refinery Petrojam, that has resulted in Jamaicans paying more for petroleum products when oil prices are tumbling around the world due to weak demand caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Specifically, Paulwell said he is flabbergasted at the admission of Energy Minister, Fayval Williams, that the Petrojam Pricing Committee is currently adding US$41 (J$5,500) per barrel to bump up refinery margins and profit.

Paulwell, in a statement on Thursday, described the Minister’s action as “abusing the product pricing formula”. He said the effect of applying this large sum is that consumers may be paying as much as double the amount they should be charged.

Additionally, Paulwell said the addition of the US$41 to ex-refinery prices without objection from Williams is an indication that ministerial oversight of Petrojam continues to be weak and is resulting in consumers paying extraordinarily higher pump prices in an era of falling prices in the international market.

Paulwell admitted that this adjustment has always been a part of the Petrojam pricing policy to provide a refinery margin. However, he said the US$41 is unconscionable and explains why Jamaican consumers are still paying relatively high retail prices.

He said the minister's explanation that the additional amount is being done via variable market adjustment is unsatisfactory, as the provision has always existed but never used to gouge consumers.

Paulwell said that no minister of energy in either the People’s National Party or Jamaica Labour Party administrations have ever allowed this abuse of consumers by Petrojam.

He is calling for an immediate roll back of the US$41 adjustment to a more acceptable level and a recalculation of ex-refinery prices to be charged this week.

"With the economy in crisis due to the effects of the coronavirus, Jamaicans should not be asked to bear unnecessarily high energy prices," Paulwell stated.

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