Sudden fuel shortages in Egypt have Egyptian drivers hoarding gasoline in anticipation of a rumored price increase, as panic around the country grows.
Though the government has denied shortages of gas, which started to become noticeable to consumers over the weekend, many gas station owners said their supplies have been cut, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Abdullah Ghorab, Egypt's Minister of Petroleum, told local media that more than 15,000 tons of gasoline was being provided to gas stations each day, 2,000 tons more than the usual daily consumption. He also urged consumers not to panic.
Iman Derbala, the owner and manager of a Mobil gas station, told Daily News Egypt Monday that "though the official media is saying there is no crisis, stations are not getting their share of fuel but people think we are hoarding it or selling it on the black market. The truth is there is no petrol.”
As The Egypt Independent reported, the streets of Cairo and other cities have been blocked by long lines of cars, often snaking around the block, as people search for gasoline.
Many drivers have reached the pumps only to find that fuel had run out. The fuel shortages have increased tension in a nation already reeling from months of political unrest.
Many Egyptians are frustrated that the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February last year has not yet yielded the economic growth they expected.
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"No one knows why this is happening and when it's going to end. Does this have anything to do with the political situation one week before the first anniversary of the revolution?" Ahmed Samir told The Los Angeles Times as he sat in his car outside a gas station. "This is exactly the sort of crisis that can trigger further dismay among Egyptians."
The Egyptian government sets gasoline prices at artificially low levels through enormous subsidies, The New York Times reported. The fuel shortage crisis has caused speculation that the government is preparing to jack up the cost of gas.
Many economists have argued that Egypt’s subsidies of energy were "increasingly untenable," according to the Times.
Egypt spends as much as 10 percent of its gross domestic product subsidizing fuel, even though "the benefits flow disproportionately to affluent consumers who drive big cars and live in large villas," the Times reported.
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