Outrage over escalating fuel prices reaches fever pitch

The government’s inaction over the escalating prices of fuel in Portugal – which for the first time ever have topped over €2 per litre of gasoline in some petrol stations – is causing a wave of outrage among ordinary citizens as well as truckers and even farmers.

The unprecedented prices have left many seeking alternatives. According to SIC, one solution has been to cross the border and fill up in Spain, where prices are 24 (diesel) and 32 (gasoline) cents cheaper per litre on average. “But this is only accessible to those who live close to the border,” the television channel says.

SIC adds that one station in Spain near the border with Bragança (north of Portugal) has even created a special campaign, providing an additional seven cent discount on fuel prices for Portuguese drivers on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Making matters worse has been the government’s apparent lack of solutions – or will – to deal with the matter.

Addressing the issue on Monday, Portugal’s Minister of State, Economy and Digital Transition simply said that the rising prices are inevitable.

“As hard as it may be, the price of fossil fuels will increase in the coming years,” said Siza Vieira.

The only solution, in the government’s view, is to “reduce the country’s energetic dependence” on foreign energy sources and “become more competitive” in terms of renewable energy.

António Saraiva, president of the Portuguese Business Confederation (CIP), has pointed out how the State receives 60% of the value that people pay for fuel, which is a percentage he believes should be reviewed.

But according to the minister, a tax reduction would do little to deal with the matter.

“We cannot fool ourselves: fossil fuel prices will continue to increase and that will affect the entire world economy,” he said.

In fact, the government’s goal is to keep the tax regime for fuel just as it is.

“The cost of fuel has varied based on the fluctuation of fuel prices in the markets, the costs of refinement and the costs of commercialisation. There has not been any change to the tax regime (since 2016). Not changing that stability provides predictability to economic agents,” Siza Vieira added.

The minister’s explanation has done little to temper the outrage surrounding these all-time-high prices.

Truckers’ association ANTRAM has announced that the theme of its annual conference, to be held on October 29 and 30, has been changed to address the “increasing costs of fuel”.

The goal will be to “give a voice” to associations and “set the necessary measures to respond to this crisis.”

The decision was made during an emergency meeting held on Wednesday during which the sector’s “displeasure with the government” was made clear.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese Confederation of Farmers (CAP) says that the prices are causing an “economic meltdown.”

Speaking during TSF radio’s ‘TSF Fórum’, CAP boss Eduardo Oliveira e Sousa said the government must intervene to stop this meltdown from happening.

“I think the government has handled this matter badly. Its attitude was to pull wool over people’s eyes, exploiting issues that have nothing to do with decarbonisation,” he said.

Gonçalo Xavier, general manager of the Portuguese Association of Distribution Companies (APED), also said that there is no other way to fight the escalating prices except reducing government taxes on fuel.