Transparency has been touted as the watchword of the current administration, as it should be with any political leadership in this time.
During the 2018 election cycle, the Government in waiting successfully prosecuted the case against the Freundel Stuart administration, that real or imagined, the quality of governance and the level transparency in the running of the national affairs represented glaring deficits that made the Stuart-led team unfit to rule another five years.
On assuming office, Ministers were constantly before the Press offering commentary on everything that was happening in their ministries, particularly the cleaning up that had to be done after the “lost decade”.
Yes. We must concede that COVID-19 has become the theme that has shadowed every undertaking of 2020. However, we still firmly believe that there are other interconnected and equally important developments in Barbados that require our attention.
Among those issues is the current price of gasoline in Barbados. While many vehicles, particularly public service vehicles use the cheaper diesel fuel, the majority of vehicles on the island are powered by gasoline.
The movement in gas prices has literally become a mystery for most motorists who cannot themselves offer a plausible explanation as to why Barbadians are currently paying $3.36 per litre for gas.
Most countries are still quoting gas prices by the gallon and it take 3.7 litres to make one gallon.
A recent Bloomberg report stated: “Global gasoline prices rose 2.2 per cent on average during the second quarter of 2020 compared with the previous quarter. The increase reflects a stabilization of prices following their 17 per cent plunge in the first quarter of the year, when the price of oil tumbled to its lowest level in more than 17 years.”
The respected global business publication, however, noted that behind the numbers existed a range of price swings that impacted every nation differently.
For the information of our readers, during the first quarter of January to March 2020 when Bloomberg disclosed that prices tumbled to their lowest levels in 17 years, our Government Information Service stated in a release dated March 1, 2020: “Gasoline will be adjusted from $3.58 per litre to $3.45 per litre, which represents a decrease of $0.13.”
The following month on April 5 that decrease was wiped away with the announcement that: “Gasoline will be adjusted from $3.45 per litre to $3.57 per litre, which represents an increase of 12 cents.”
The point that we are making here is that the Barbadian public needs a detailed explanation for the movements rather than the cut and pasted statement, “These price adjustments are in keeping with Government’s policy of allowing retail prices to be reflective of those on the international market.”
The Minister responsible for Energy owes it to the public either through his own intervention or by some other policy representative to explain why energy prices in this country remain so high.
It has been argued that the high price of fossil fuels are the perfect impetus for Barbadians to aggressively pursue the national goal of 100 per cent green energy by 2030.
But there has also been the contention that our high gas prices are more about the tax take generated from the sale of fuel that has resulted in “artificially high gas prices” that Barbadians are paying.
It was not so long ago that the then opposition Barbados Labour Party was blistering in its attack on the former Government for its “pass through” policy that resulted in the movement of petrol prices rather than awaiting a pronouncement from the Minister of Finance during the annual Budget presentation to hear what will be the price of fuel and other petroleum products on the island.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. Prime Minister Mottley in her first Budget presentation eliminated the Road Tax imposition on motorists and transferred some of that tax burden to the gas pump.
If revenue collection is the real reason why the price of fuel is so high then say this to the public. We are well aware that the Government is in desperate need of revenue given the devastation brought upon this economy by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As an administration in charge of the economy in this most perilous period, nothing is off the table when it comes to maintaining the administrative functioning of the economy. However transparency is still required and the public still has a right to know.