Source: Vientiane Times
Fuel businesses and importers are struggling to supply enough fuel to meet public demand due to fluctuating currency exchange rates and the volatile global oil market.
Fuel shortages forced petrol stations in Vientiane and some provinces to close on Monday, with many of desperate motorists going from one station to another in the hope of filling up their tanks.
Some petrol stations that still had supplies were flooded with vehicles, leading to traffic jams in some parts of the capital.
Several provinces have experienced fuel shortages in recent weeks, with Vientiane in particular hit on weekends when petrol stations were forced to close.
Fuel businesses and importers are struggling to find sufficient foreign currency to buy the essential commodity from other countries.
Laos is totally dependent on fuel obtained from outside sources.
Some importers have temporarily stopped buying fuel as they are unable to make a profit while the import price is greatly affected by the unfavourable kip/dollar exchange rate. The continuing depreciation of the kip is exacerbating the situation.
Laos needs about 120 million litres of fuel a month to meet public demand, but at present importers can afford to buy less than 50 percent of this amount.
President of the Lao Fuel and Gas Association, Mr Sysangkhom Khotnhotha, said importers are struggling to buy sufficient fuel to meet the country’s needs.
There have been frequent fuel price hikes this year because of unstable geopolitical situations as well as the rise in demand for fuel.
Because all of Laos’ fuel is sourced from abroad, importers must pay for it in foreign currencies, which are now more and more costly because of the continuing depreciation of the kip, Mr Sysangkhom said.
The other reason that less fuel is being imported is because of the effect the spiralling cost of fuel on the global market is having on Laos, where some oil refineries are hoarding fuel with the intention of making a profit, he added.
The rise in the price of imported fuel means that retail prices in Laos will inevitably continue to rise.
“We don’t know for how many more days we will be able to import fuel because it’s difficult to get the necessary funds. Some petrol stations have less fuel for sale because less is being imported. Some petrol stations in Vientiane close early when supplies run out,” Mr Sysangkhom said.
According to the Department of Domestic Trade, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, authorities are urgently attempting to find ways to regulate the price of fuel, as higher costs are affecting transportation, inflation and the cost of living.
The government will try to lower costs by reducing the fees paid to the road maintenance fund, as well as lowering taxes and other fees paid by businesses, in order to keep prices from spiralling out of control, a ministry official said.
Meanwhile, authorities are monitoring petrol stations to prevent them from hoarding fuel.