A positive step | Daily News

A positive step

The decision taken by the Power and Energy Ministry to increase the weekly QR fuel quotas for vehicles of all types will be welcomed by all motorists whose movements had been hampered in recent times due the rationing of fuel, which was seen as a solution to the severe shortage of fuel experienced last year.

According to Minister Kanchana Wijesekera, the slight increase in the fuel quota during the Sinhala and Hindu New Year had no impact on the country’s foreign reserves and President Ranil Wickremesinghe has proposed that the fuel quotas be increased further.

Accordingly, the present weekly fuel quota under the QR code for motorcycles will be increased from 7 litres to 14 litres, registered three-wheelers for hire from 5 litres to 22 litres, other three-wheelers 8 litres to 14 litres, cars 30 litres to 40 litres, passenger transport buses from 60 litres to 125 litres and LCV/trucks from 75 litres to 125 litres.

Three-wheelers for hire would benefit immensely as a result of the increase in the fuel quota. Presently three-wheeler drivers do not go on long distance hires since the vehicle will be returning empty on the return journey, thereby incurring a huge loss. These three-wheelers carry passengers only on short distance hires as the operators have to save fuel until the next QR turn.

Buses too can now resume long distance travel which was hampered due to the rationing of diesel. The same applies to school van services and office-staff transport. In fact, the ceiling placed on the weekly fuel supply even affected certain industries and daily paid livelihoods. Fuel rationing had also prevented school trips and educational journeys that spoiled the fun for the young as well. Ditto for holidaying in the cool hills for folk in the City, however rich they may have been. Places of worship and pilgrimage sites too witnessed a much reduced presence for the same reason.

Fuel is the engine that keeps everything on the move and all activity bubbling. There is no knowing how many foreign investors were fighting shy of coming here due to fuel rationing.

President Wickremesinghe should be commended for providing an uninterrupted power supply even in the midst of an unprecedented fuel crisis. However, the fuel shortage cannot be wished away. Some day the country will have to come to terms with a similar fuel crisis which is bound to exacerbate the economic crisis. Therefore, the sooner we find alternatives to fossil fuel to power the economy, the safer it will be.

Hopefully, the fuel supply would soon return to full normality paving the way for all stalled economic activity and the fun and frolic to resume at full throttle.

The increase in the fuel quota under the QR system would also end the various malpractices at filling stations and elsewhere. The fuel crisis, at its very start, was taken full advantage of by some filling station owners and even the pump attendants to rake in the shekels by resorting to various forms of underhand dealings. There were even media reports of large quantities of fuel finding their way into the homes of certain politicians and other powerful persons while the ordinary people stood for days in fuel queues, some even dying in the process.

Like the fuel crisis, even the economic crisis as a whole was made use of by traders of other goods too that were in short supply and they brazenly continue fleecing the public even at present when the Rupee has appreciated and the Government has reduced the prices of a range of essential consumer items.

Rice and eggs continue to be sold at inflated prices even though day in and day out Ministers keep on announcing the reduction in the prices of these two essential consumer items. TV channels recently showed officers of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) raiding certain shops and boutiques in the provinces and warning traders who were selling goods at black market prices.

It is heartening to see the CAA getting activated again after a long period of slumber. One recalls CAA officials declaring themselves helpless after the gazette issued by the Government struck out a list of items earlier subject to price control. But mere warnings will not suffice.

Action should be taken in terms of the law so that this will act as a deterrent to all rogue elements. The CAA should also drop in to pharmacies to check on the prices of drugs that are being sold at exorbitant prices which an average income earner cannot afford, leave alone the poor. As a result, patients have started rationing their prescription drugs so that they can delay as much as possible their next visit to the pharmacies.

The end result is that patients with ailments such as diabetes and high blood pressure could develop other complications that might even result in death. The plight of the senior citizens and retirees who depend on their meagre pensions and retirement benefits could only be imagined. The Government must ensure that the concessions it grants to the people by way of price reductions are enforced to the letter.

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