Confusion abounds over fuel price-limiting surcharge

In the heart of summer, the cost of unleaded fuel at petrol stations on the Greek islands reached the 2-euro per liter level, prompting RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to propose the implementation of a price ceiling in 17 regions. However, the Economy and Development Minister Yiannis Dragasakis tabled a counterproposal entailing the adoption of a subsidies measure to offset fuel transportation costs as the most effective way of tackling the issue.

Now, several weeks later, unleaded fuel prices on islands have risen again to levels just below 2 euros per liter. Meanwhile, government officials do not appear to know what this subsidies measure will end up costing, how many liters of island-bound fuel it will be valid for, and if funds exist to finance it.

Financing such a measure should not be an issue for the government. Petrol station companies contribute 1.2 percent of the price of each liter of fuel to the national budget, SEEPE, the Hellenic Petroleum Marketing Companies Association, has reminded in seven letters forwarded to six different ministers over the past three and a half years.

Mid-way through 2015, the government abolished a special account taking in these payments but petrol stations have needed to keep paying their 1.2 percent contributions over the past three and a half years. It has remained unclear where this money is ending up, how it is being utilized and by whom. Yet, the 1.2 percent surcharge on fuel remains attached to the retail sums paid by consumers. The surcharge was introduced with the purpose of restricting fuel prices on islands.

SEEPE, in its series of letters addressed to ministers holding ecomomy, energy and finance portfolios, has demanded to be informed on how this pool of funds is being used but has yet to receive any response.

Roughly 6 million tons of fuel is transported each year, meaning that funds raised through the surcharge amount to between 45 and 50 million euros per year.