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Are SA fuel prices really outrageous compared to other countries?

2018-07-04 15:00

Lance Branquinho

SAVE FUEL: We list more tips and methods on how to save fuel. Image: iStock

Record prices aren’t fun, but are we becoming unnecessarily concerned about what unleaded costs?

As local petrol prices edge over R16/litre this week South Africans are feeling predictably perturbed about keeping the wheels of their liquid fuelled vehicles rolling.

Are our fuel prices really high?

The shock at fuel prices having broken through the R16 ceiling is understandable but as with all issues around energy spend, even if concerns personal transport, context is required. It’s certainly unpleasant having your budget battered each month, as motoring energy expenses increase almost whimsically.

READ: Petrol price still on course to breach record R16/litre: Fuel hikes 'could've been far higher' - AA

For those motorists who think that R16/litre is outrageous, a broader view – including global petrol prices for context – reveals a more moderate perspective. SA’s government taxation of fuel, in the guise of levies and special taxes attached to the pump price, is not an act in isolation.

Many governments liberally tax fuel as an income source and even countries who have access to very cheap fuel as source suppliers, choose to inflate the price with taxes.

Norway has a pump price of petrol which currently bills to R28/l, and it also happens to be an oil producer, which gives an indication of just how radical Norwegian government taxes on fuel are.

Within the global petrol price graph, South Africa sits very much in the middle. The average price of petrol, globally, is R15.85 and we are going to be paying R16 for this month. That means South Africans are paying 0.94% more than the global average for unleaded automotive fuel. Is that an outrageous premium? Possibly not. 

Cheap fuel. But can you actually get it?

There are countries where fuel is very cheap. In Venezuela it is the cheapest, at only 12c/litre, but the South American country is currently in economic and social freefall – so good luck enjoying your cheap fuel as a driving experience over there.

Many of the other countries which have apparently bargain pump prices come with a host of other issues, which might not quite make them the motoring nirvana they appear to be. Sudan’s petrol costs only R4.69/litre but good luck on finding it everywhere.

And although R5.70/litre might sound rather inciting if you are planning on doing a road trip in Nigeria, be prepared for huge lines and chaotic refuelling conditions at most fuel sources.

Countries which classified as conflict zones, with a high likelihood of bombing or kidnapping, also curiously happen to have cheap fuel. In Afghanistan you’ll only pay R9.30/litre to fill up and in Iraq it’s even better, at R8.63.

                                                                             Image: iStock

Yet you don’t really see a thriving road-trip scene on Instagram originating from either, with good reason.

Record fuel prices are not good news for South Africans, but within a global context, our pump fuel prices are not a cause for hysterics – yet. It’s just annoying that some of our neighbours pay so much less.

Like our Botswanan friends, who must be feeling quite content with a pump price of R10.93. Small wonder they’re such petrolheads over there.

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