Reuters: Iran's government plans to ask parliament for $7 billion to pay for increasingly expensive fuel imports, a newspaper said on Monday, despite gasoline rationing launched by the world's fourth-largest oil producer last year.
TEHRAN, June 16 (Reuters) – Iran's government plans to ask parliament for $7 billion to pay for increasingly expensive fuel imports, a newspaper said on Monday, despite gasoline rationing launched by the world's fourth-largest oil producer last year.
A senior Oil Ministry official, Hojjatollah Ghanimifard, warned the amount needed during the Iranian year that ends in March 2009 could rise even further if international gasoline and other fuel prices continued to rise.
He told the daily Tehran-e Emrouz newspaper in an interview that consumption was estimated at 80 million litres in Iran, above a figure of roughly 75 million litres given by officials when rationing was introduced for motorists in June 2007.
Officials had previously said both consumption and imports fell sharply after Iran launched rationing to curb soaring consumption which had risen well beyond its ability to refine crude, forcing the government to rely on expensive imports.
Imports of fuel is a sensitive issue in Iran at a time when the Islamic Republic is under increasing international pressure over its disputed nuclear programme.
"If the (fuel) prices continue to rise the budget needed to import will be more than $7 billion. It will be around $9 billion," Ghanimifard was quoted as saying.
Iran's parliament authorised in February the Oil Ministry to import gasoline and gas oil for the equivalent of $3.2 billion in the fiscal year that started on March 21, but Monday's report made clear this would not nearly be enough.
Seifollah Jashnsaz, another senior oil official, referred to a somewhat higher budget figure and said: "The credit of $3.5 billion will end by the end of (the Iranian month that ends on Aug. 21) and then we will need more …. "
Under the rationing scheme, all fuel had been sold at the heavily subsidised price of 1,000 rials (about 11 U.S. cents) a litre. But the government revised the system starting from March to let drivers buy fuel above their 120 litre a month quota at 4,000 rials a litre.
One official said in October imports would decline by at least 20 percent to $4 billion in the 2007-08 Iranian year, from $5 billion previously, but other comments have since suggested higher imports.
In May, another official said Iran expects to import about 20 million litres of gasoline per day during the 2008-9 year, less than half the amount it would have imported had it not launched rationing a year ago.
But that figure was still 5 million litres higher than an import estimate given in February, before Iran allowed the sale of extra, higher-priced gasoline outside the rationing system. (Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by James Jukwey)