UPP Leader gives Gaston a “U” as in ‘unconscionable’ for the recent gas hike

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Prime Minister, Gaston Browne. (file photo). UPP Leader, Harold Lovell. (file photo)
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Residents in Antigua and Barbuda woke up on June 13, to a whopping increase in what they pay at the pumps for gasoline and diesel. The announcement of $17.50 per gallon represents a total increase of 40 percent in just three months. The announcement came via the lips of Prime Minister Gaston Browne, on Saturday, during his weekly radio programme.

“It was designed to shock an already ‘cash-strapped’ populace that continues to feel the squeeze at the pump as gas prices hit record levels. Three months ago, residents were asked to pay $15.70 per gallon for gasoline – an increase of 25 percent. The new price of $17.50 represents an astronomical 40 percent increase in the price of gasoline since March of this year,” noted Harold Lovell, UPP Political Leader.

“The Prime Minister blamed the increase on the war in Ukraine. However, it is noted that the price of oil on the world market today is no higher than it was in March, when the war began. In fact, the price of fuel has been fluctuating, hovering around $120.00 per barrel,” Lovell continues.

UPP Political Leader condemns this huge price increase as unconscionable. He notes that since taking office, the Gaston Browne administration has not used the “pass through” mechanism, to pass on the savings to consumers when oil prices are low, unlike other countries.

A case in point: In February of 2015 when the price of a barrel of oil fell to as low as $42.00, Antiguans and Barbudans continued to pay $13.50 per gallon. In fact, from 2016 to the present, the ABLP government has not responded to price fluctuations and has raked in by way of consumption tax, $466 million dollars. The highest yield was in 2016, when gas prices were at an all-time low and $80 million was generated in consumption tax. Despite the pandemic, in 2020 more than $79 million was collected and in 2021, the yield was $60 million dollars.

In contrast, the UPP utilised the “pass through” approach and the highest yield ever generated under the UPP, was $45 million dollars in 2010, when oil prices on the world market were at the highest.

The Political Leader also takes issue with the lack of respect displayed in relaying the information about the fuel increase. “Instead of convening a formal briefing on a business day, the information was read on the ABLP’s mouthpiece, Pointe FM. Information of this nature should be disseminated by way of a formal press release, first to the national station and then to all other media houses, not by way of a weekend talk show,” he states.

According to Lovell, just mentioning the price of gas makes drivers angry.  He is therefore calling on the Prime Minister Gaston Browne to rescind this burdensome increase at the pumps, as residents are already buckling under the weight of high prices in general and can ill-afford this increase.

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