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By Keni Ramese Lesa

APIA, Samoa (October 4, 2000 - Samoa Observer/PINA Nius Online)---Samoa's sole supplier of petroleum products, Mobil Oil, is confident it has sufficient supply to meet the local demand.

Despite reports from Asian and European countries about "panic buying," Mobil Oil Australia gave assurances that it is "not anticipating" a similar problem in Samoa, let alone the Pacific.

The company was asked for a comment on reports that the petrol supply was low around the world. This has resulted in panic buying, rocketing prices to a 10-year high. Mobil Oil Australia’s Senior Public Affairs Advisor, Mr. Alan J. Bailey, told the Samoa Observer the situation in Asia and Europe did not apply to the Pacific.

"In regard to Samoa, we do not anticipate any oil supply problems or shortages as a result of what is happening in Europe," he said.

In a written correspondence, Mr. Bailey wrote: "World oil prices are high at present due to a combination of factors."

Some of them are "Oil Producing Export Countries (OPEC) production constraints, refinery shutdowns, low product inventories and others." Furthermore, the problem has been compounded by the strength of the U.S. dollar, which is the trading currency for oil around the world.

"In many European countries high levels of taxation on oil products add to the burden consumers are facing and this has triggered protests, including blockades of oil terminals and refineries," Mr. Bailey explained. "This situation does not apply throughout Asia and the Pacific.²

As a precautionary measure, Mobil Oil is not encouraging people to take actions such as blockading, panic buying and hoarding oil products.

"Blockading of refineries will not help get oil prices down," he added. "What is needed is a return to a better balanced level of oil supply and demand around the world. This will happen but it will take some time."

Mobil Oil’s Apia office is not commenting on the matter except to say that there is enough supply for the country. Meanwhile, motorists and car fleet operators are feeling the harsh reality of soaring prices. Taxi operators have been the ones hit the hardest.

A member of the Samoa Taxi Association told the Observer that they have yet to receive a reply to a request to raise taxi fares by 100%. This application was submitted two months ago to counter expensive petrol costs.

To date, consumers are paying $1.57 for a liter of petrol, $1.41 for a liter of kerosene and $1.48 for a liter of diesel. Retailers on the other hand are paying $303.84 for a 200-litre gallon of petrol, $271.68 for a 200-liter gallon of kerosene and $286.97 for a 200-litre gallon of diesel.

(NOTE: All prices listed are in the Samoa Tala. On October 5, 2000, Tala 3.333 = US$ 1.00.)

This means for one liter of petrol retailers are paying $1.51, for kerosene $1.35 and $1.43 for a liter of diesel. Observers believe prices will continue to climb for the next couple of months.

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