For Some, Oil Price Decrease Is Not Enough

The price of gasoline at the pump fell slightly this week in line with drastic drops in the price of international crude oil, though Phnom Penh residents and taxi drivers asked local oil companies to cut prices faster.

Caltex dropped its price of super-quality petrol to 4,700 riel per liter, down from 5,100 riel per liter last week, while Sokimex’s prices fell 500 riel across the board this week, with super-grade gasoline now at 4,600 riel per liter, regular-grade at 4,400 riel per liter and diesel at 4,300 riel per liter.

Sokimex petroleum company Dep­uty Director-General Heu Heng said he is working with the Finance Ministry to coordinate a continuous drop in petrol prices, which he expects to soon hit 4,000 riel per liter.

“We do not intend or want to sell at a higher price,” he said Wed­nesday by telephone. “We are hope­ful that the price of gasoline can drop to 4,000 riel or less per liter. But the price of crude oil in the international market is not stable.”

Crude plunged 52 percent to $70.89 Tuesday from its July 11 record high of $147.27 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Tuk-tuk and motorbike taxi drivers said Wednesday they were still feeling the pinch from the past year’s skyrocketing price of petrol.

“It seriously increased, like the jump of a rabbit, but it has dropped like the walk of a turtle. There is an imbalance between the increase and decrease in gas prices,” said motorbike taxi driver Hab Buntep, 39.

Such swings in international oil prices prevent the government from guaranteeing that petrol prices will continue to fall, Finance Ministry Secretary-General Hang Chuon Naron said Wednesday.

The government has forgone $250 million in tax revenue from the industry this year in an effort to keep gas prices stable, Hang Chu­on Naron said, while in 2007 it forwent $170 million in gas taxes.

“Our government has tried its best to curb the price of gasoline through forgoing revenues on pet­rol­eum products. It is part of a subsidy to keep the price stable,” he said.

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