In a rather disheartening revelation, the Ministry of Energy has confessed its utter powerlessness in the face of the skyrocketing fuel prices that have left the entire nation reeling in dismay.
During a parliamentary session, the State Minister for Energy, Sidronius Opolot Okaasai, candidly admitted that the government’s influence is negligible when it comes to the relentless surge in fuel prices, attributing this calamity to global oil market dynamics beyond their control.
Opolot Okaasai went on to explain to the parliamentarians that the current surge in pump prices can be traced back to the surging global demand for oil and the ever-fluctuating international oil market. A barrel of crude oil, he noted, had leaped from $74.35 in July 2023 to a staggering $82.45 by August 2023.
With a seemingly defeated tone, Okaasai conveyed that their hands are tied, and their only role in this crisis is to keep a watchful eye on the subsector while attempting to maintain a steady supply of petroleum products at prices that are as competitive as circumstances permit.
“Uganda operates in a liberalized downstream petroleum market, where pump prices are dictated solely by the relentless dance of supply and demand. A slew of global factors, such as OPEC members cutting back on supply, has thrown the oil market into disarray, leading to a reduction in overall oil production. When global prices ascend, Uganda can only bear the brunt. The opaque macroeconomic factors are also formidable players in this gloomy scenario,” lamented Okasai.
Minister Okaasai didn’t stop there; he brought attention to the record-breaking global demand for oil, which surged to a staggering 103 billion barrels per day in June 2023. This insatiable thirst for oil, he argued, exerts immense pressure on the already strained supply. Additionally, the exchange rate fluctuations have further compounded the situation, as the value of the dollar continues its relentless climb against the Ugandan shilling.
Despite these explanations, members of parliament remained far from satisfied with the minister’s statement. Some members even attempted to invoke rule 59, seeking to reject the minister’s statement on the grounds that it lacked any substantive government interventions.
Ssemujju passionately declared, “I move a motion under rule 59, as I firmly believe that parliament must reject this statement. What has become of our fuel reserves?”
Naluyima inquired, “Can we at least have a contingency plan in place? What happened to our buffers?”
Other legislators echoed these concerns and called for a stable fuel supply in the country, emphasizing the importance of maintaining sufficient fuel reserves to weather external shocks.
The speaker, however, made the ruling that the statement, along with the committee report, would be up for debate during the following parliamentary session.
As the nation grapples with these grim realities, fuel prices, which had previously displayed signs of stability, have once again begun their inexorable ascent. A liter of petrol is now exchanging hands for sums between 5,100 and 5,430 Ugandan shillings, while diesel, which had momentarily reached 4,600 Ugandan shillings at select stations, now commands prices ranging from 4,999 to 5,200 shillings per liter.