AFP: Iran’s government announced on Tuesday it was allowing motorists to take extra petrol from pumps over the summer holiday period, two months after imposing a strict rationing plan aimed at slashing consumption. by Farhad Pouladi
TEHRAN, Aug 28, 2007 (AFP) – Iran’s government announced on Tuesday it was allowing motorists to take extra petrol from pumps over the summer holiday period, two months after imposing a strict rationing plan aimed at slashing consumption.
Drivers of private cars will be allowed to take an extra 100 litres (22 gallons) from the pumps, on top of the 100 litres of petrol they are now limited to each month.
The 100 litres of additional petrol appears to be is a one-off gesture by the government to help people travel through the summer holiday period and will not be repeated in subsequent months.
It is not clear if the decision met with the wholehearted approval of the oil ministry, whose caretaker minister said just days earlier that it was not possible to give an additional quota for holiday tourism.
Iran’s Vice President for tourism Esfandyar Rahim Mashaii said that drivers could claim the extra allowance by providing their details on a special Internet site to be launched in a week.
“Whether you have taken your summer holidays or not, you can fill in the form and this quota will be given to you,” he told state television.
“Of course some people will not register, this means they do not want the extra quota and thus will help Iran’s economy,” he added.
Iranian families are traditionally inveterate travellers over the summer months, driving to resorts along the Caspian Sea and historic cities to escape the worst of the heat.
However many have complained this year that their petrol quotas are barely sufficient for travel within Tehran and other cities, ruling out holiday trips by private cars.
The petrol rationing has been implemented through smart cards which drivers use each time they buy petrol and keep track of their purchases.
The announcement of the extra petrol comes just ahead of an extended holiday weekend in Iran to celebrate the birthday of the “hidden” 12th imam of Shiite Islam, when hundreds of thousands are expected to take to the roads.
Many Iranians will only now be starting their main summer holidays, taking advantage of the cooler September weather and with schools still out for another month.
“The aim of this decision is to boost the tourist industry because of the role travel plays in the psychological health of the people,” said the government committee overseeing the plan.
But Gholam Hossein Nozari, who became caretaker oil minister following the sacking of Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh earlier this month, said on Friday that “it does not appear we can allocate a special quota for tourism.”
“Everyone in this country is interested in tourism and is looking for an excuse to receive petrol for this purpose,” Nozari said, according to the IRNA agency.
Iran, OPEC’s number two oil producer, in late June finally implemented a long-awaited plan to ration petrol to decrease the colossal state subsidies paid for keeping pump prices low.
The announcement triggered angry protests, with demonstrators torching petrol stations and yelling slogans against the government, but these rapidly petered out.
Despite recent price rises, the subsidies mean Iranian drivers are still paying less for their petrol — 1,000 rials (0.10 dollars) per litre — than for the comparable amount of mineral water.
The government has rejected demands from parliament for motorists to make purchases in excess of their quota at much higher non-subsidised prices, meaning that all Iranians have to obey the rationing limits.