Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) officials have this week been raiding several filling stations in Lilongwe to check if some stations were hoarding fuel ahead of an anticipated hike in petrol pump prices.
Random visits to service stations in Area 18, Old Town, Area 36 and Biwi Triangle in the capital city established that some filling station owners were not selling petrol, forcing motorists to queue at the few stations that were selling the commodity.
One filling station owner in Lilongwe confirmed in an interview that his station was raided by Mera officials after they had run out of petrol stocks.
Said the businessperson: ‘We did not have petrol [in stock] at that particular time and Mera officials demanded to dip the stick used to check stock levels in the tank, but they found none. Through this action, we were alerted that fuel prices will indeed go up.”
Mera acting chief executive officer Elias Hausi confirmed in an interview on Tuesday that some of his officers stormed several filling stations after hearing reports of hoarding, but they found no concrete evidence to the allegations.
He said: “We got reports some filling stations were hoarding fuel, but we uncovered nothing. If we had found one, we could have revoked their licences on the spot.”
In a related development, Mera’s Energy Pricing Committee was scheduled to meet yesterday, the first Tuesday of the month, to review fuel pump prices with a likelihood of petrol going up if changes to key variables are anything to go by.
In a statement giving an update on the developments relating to the variables published last Friday, Mera said during the period ending July 2015 the in-bond landed costs (IBLC) increased by 14.01 percent, 3.12 percent and 3.68 percent for petrol, diesel and paraffin in that order.
Under the Automatic Pricing Mechanism (APM) adopted in May 2012, prices are revised upwards or downwards when the IBLC changes beyond the +/-five percent trigger limit. Besides the IBLC, another contributing factor is the value of the Malawi kwacha against its major trading currencies, notably the dollar.
Hausi hinted prices could go up, but said not by 14 percent as per speculation.
Economics professor Ben Kaluwa said if the price of petrol goes up, it will bring misery to Malawians since their buying power will be eroded further.
He said: “Any increase in fuel prices will make it more difficult for government to meet its target as regards reduction of inflation and prices of all commodities are going to go up. I anticipate that after the increase in the price of petrol, diesel will follow suit shortly.” n