Opposition Leader and former President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo asserted that there is fiscal space to make the adjustment with the tax regime to allow a reduction of gas prices for local consumers.
His comments come as Government is yet to speak on or engage parties in helping to address the issue of high fuel prices.
Jagdeo told a news conference on Thursday that under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, there was a system used in cases like these, where the taxes can be adjusted based on the movement up or down on the gas price, so that the benefits would be passed onto the people.
Given the mounting criticisms and the need for serious attention to be paid to the issue, the PPP/C General Secretary said, “The Government through public pressure must adjust the rate at the pump. They have a lot of room. They have the fiscal space as well as the tax play to make that adjustment.”
The former Guyanese Head of State recalled that when the prices for crude oil stood at about US$75 per barrel, lower that the US$120 high before the rapid tumble a few years ago to about US$28.
“We had argued that with the rapid tumble, the benefits should have been passed on to the Guyanese public, who would have seen lower prices at the pump and in their electricity bill. They never did that. And what happened was that they raked in billions in revenue; they collected over $25 billion at GPL alone.”
He told the media that now the crude prices have gone up back to about US$75 a barrel and not US$120 as yet, there is definitely room to make significant adjustments to the price of fuel at the pump.
But Jagdeo said he is convinced that the Government may not be too keen on implementing that, especially based on the fact that they are more concerned about collecting more revenue. “Not to give people a chance because price for fuel has an impact on production as well as cost of living. They don’t see this as a responsibility but one to collect taxes. They just want to collect more taxes,” he asserted.
Moreover, In recognising the protest actions being taken by minibus operators in relation to the increased fuel costs, Jagdeo said Government’s response to this issue just highlights how incompetent they are at resolving very simple issue, especially those that have a direct impact on people lives and the economy.
State-owned, Guyana Oil Company Limited (Guyoil ) Service Stations have increased their gasoline prices from $200 per litre, to $230, while diesel and kerosene have leaped to $214 per litre and $145 per litre, respectively.
In a statement on the increases, Guyoil said it is holding the line with its gas price despite crude oil reaching four-year highs.
While noting that local prices for gasoline have not reached the highs of early 2015 when it was retailing at $263 per litre and diesel was at $260, Guyoil said as “an importer, Guyana has historically been vulnerable to oil price shocks. World prices have shot up in recent weeks mainly due to the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.”
On Wednesday, the The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), as well as the Private Sector made calls for Government to intervene and put measures in place to ensure the effects are not filtered to businesses and consumers.