UAE campaign urges petrol boycott on Wed

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By Rajiv Sekhri  www.business.maktoob.com

DUBAI – An email campaign has urged UAE residents to boycott petrol stations on Wednesday as a “peaceful demonstration against this unfair decision” to raise petrol prices.

Dubai metro
Dubai metro

The email, in Arabic, has been sent to potentially thousands of residents across the country, which not known for anti-government demonstrations of any kind.

“We need to work together to stop the increase … Forward this message to everyone you know … Cooperate to defeat the oil companies,” reads the message, sent via BlackBerry Messenger

“Fill up your cars on Tuesday … Show that you do not agree with this increase,” it continues.

Petrol will cost 11 percent more starting Wednesday as the UAE government takes steps to liberalise the tightly-controlled market, state news agency WAM reported last week.

The price hike will see the cost of special unleaded rise 10.9 percent, or 15 fils, to 1.52 dirhams ($0.41) a litre from 1.37 dirhams and super unleaded climb 10.1 percent to 1.63 dirhams from 1.48 dirhams.

Fuel demand across the Gulf has risen rapidly as subsidised prices encouraged consumption from a growing population.

Petrol prices surged nearly 31 percent in 2005 to 6.25 dirhams a gallon. In 2001, prices rose to 3.75 dirhams a gallon for regular gasoline from 3.65 dirhams, the first increase since 1984.

The email campaign said that because the UAE has changed to selling petrol in litres from gallons, the 15 fils increase is actually a rise of 67 fils.

“So if you used to fill your tank for 10 dirhams, now you will be filling it for 21 dirhams,” the email reads. “This is the highest increase in petrol price in the Middle East and it is the highest price for petrol in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).”

The email also raised concerns about higher petrol costs translating into higher prices for other services.

“Where is this is going to end? Are we all going to have ride the Dubai Metro? … The price of everything is going to increase and it is going to be justified due to higher petrol prices,” the email reads.

UAE taxi firms have already said they want to discuss strategies to cope with higher petrol prices. TransAD, the taxi regulator in Abu Dhabi, said it would examine the petrol price increase “because it affects the sector directly”. It did not rule out raising fares.

Emirates National Oil Co (ENOC) could not be reached for comment on what impact a boycott of petrol stations could have on business.

Oil companies have lobbied to raise fuel prices for years, arguing current prices do not cover the cost of production.