The continued inaction by the Minister of Energy in creating a viable plan aimed at solving the sustainability and profitability dilemma facing gas station operators gives rise to the question:
“Is this a subtle way of Government asking operators to give up their licenses or forcing some of them out of the industry?”
The recent decision by the Petroleum Dealers Association of Trinidad and Tobago to stop the use of electronic payments for fuel as at Friday 28th October 2016 is representative of the uncertainty and burden that operators have been facing since the imposition of the 200 percent increase to both the business levy and green fund in January by the current administration.
These drastic increases have destabilized the business of retailing fuel as operators have been forced to pay more taxes while earning the same level income due to the fixed price of fuel and retail margin set by the Ministry of Energy. This has subsequently resulted in less available income to meet their operational expenses coupled with minimal profits if any.
After months of urging and pleading with Government to no avail for intervention to assist in ensuring the sustainability of their businesses, it is unfortunate but understandable that the least jarring measure to ensure operators remain functioning was the reduction of the cost to facilitate electronic payments which vary from 3 percent of the respective sale for credit cards and 75 cents for each debit card sale.
However, this effort of commercial survival has made operators and staff vulnerable to criminal elements given the amount of cash which will now be present in gas stations as a result of the cash only policy and therefore warrants the urgent attention of the Minister of Energy to return stability within the industry while preventing further negative repercussions such as loss of jobs and inconvenience to consumers.