Effects Of Lingering Fuel Scarcity
Just like water and air are important to living human beings for daily duties and hitch-free survival, the importance of fuel to automobiles cannot be overlooked. The importance of fuel in this developing and technically inclined economy is just like blood vessels in the human body. Fuel is used in a variety of activities ranging from production, mobility, cooking, and electricity supply, to mention but a few. To this extent, one would accept that fuel plays a great role in the lives of every citizen of the country and the country as a whole.
In Malawi, persistent fuel shortages started taking its toll in 2021. Despite many promises made by the Malawi government through the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) and other government agencies to end fuel scarcity, it has been unable to fulfil this promise. The ripple effect of fuel scarcity caused mainly by a shortage of foreign exchange (US dollar) has now reached almost every aspect of living, and if a solution is not found, things will get tougher in the next few months or so.
Currently, the impact of fuel scarcity is painfully felt on the cost of transportation. This scarcity has directly impacted motorists, making it difficult for many Malawians to commute to work, schools, hospitals, and other necessary destinations. The increased transportation fares are also burdening individuals and families who heavily depend on public transportation. Random spot checks in cities and towns show that transport fares for motorists have increased by about 40% to 50%. Motorists are blaming the government for not ending the fuel scarcity, which has left them with no choice but to make adjustments to cover their running costs. Food prices in most places have also gone up as a result of this rising cost of production.
On the other hand, fuel scarcity has provided room for the growth of another business popularly called “the black market”. There may be scarcity at fuel stations, but somehow black market dealers always have an abundance of fuel to sell at overpriced rates. The simple business strategy is “if you are desperate enough, you will pay any price for the fuel,” and many Malawians have reached the point of desperation. Businesses that need fuel to operate cannot stay in queues for 24 hours; a car stopped in the middle of the road on the way to queue for fuel is a black market customer; in fact, even cars in long fuel queues have to buy black market to remain in the queues when their fuel runs out from the start and stop of slow-moving queues mopping up their fuel. Suffice it to say that MERA, as a regulatory body, is failing to enforce and monitor how fuel is sold in the country, and this is putting the lives of Malawians at risk.
In conclusion, it is unfortunate that the scarcity of fuel in Malawi has become perennial and often blamed on the most ridiculous excuses, like the celebration of a festivity or other activities that last at most 24 hours. The fuel shortage in the third quarter of 2023 is indeed a very bad omen; it is contrary to the government projection that fuel shortages would stabilise this year, as the government signed deals with the Reserve Bank of Malawi and other development partners. The question remains: when will this problem of fuel shortages end?