Muscat, Sept 30 - The rising crude oil prices have been welcomed amid hope that it will lessen the burden mounted by economic downturn. But in Oman, the major concern is about its direct impact on fuel bill, currently at its all-time high. “Fuel bills will continue to be on par with crude prices and there will be some inflation. We need to wait and watch on this front,” a senior market research head told the Observer. With the public transport still in its nascent stages, rising fuel prices will hit home budgets as private vehicles continue to be the major source of transportation.
The National Subsidy System for fuel is applicable to Omani citizens who meet the criteria, which include those who are above 18 years of age and own a vehicle. The subsidy is only for M91 type fuel. Fuel prices had never been a matter of concern in the past, with large and off-road SUVS having been a favourite among motorists, even for daily city commuting. “Understandably, even citizens are looking at salon cars and smaller SUVs these days. An Omani rial fetches very few litres of petrol now as against earlier when even the highest grade would cost only 120 baisas,” said a senior executive of a dealership for large SUVS in Oman.
“Given Oman’s topography, long drives with families in compact sedans may be difficult. But people are weighing options with the huge ‘gas guzzlers’ no longer viable.”
Haitham, a resident of Rustaq, said he has restricted the use of his large SUV to driving in wadis and unpaved roads once or twice a month. “Otherwise, I use a sedan that gives me more mileage for every RO 1, and importantly, serves the office-to-home city commute during weekdays.” Rajesh Parab, a civil engineer, said, “Any decent-sized sedan should be enough for daily commute within the city and occasional long drives. I feel it is not just money. It is also about saving fuel and environment for the future.” While auto dealers have been not able to provide any figures, the sale of M95 fuel (used for larger vehicles) have been on the decline in the past few years.
The production of M95 declined by 23 per cent, while its sales dropped 25 per cent in the first eight of months of 2018 compared with the same period a year ago. Mwasalat, the public transport company, has in the past one year expanded its Muscat city routes to 13 and has been urging passengers, especially Omanis, to avail of its services. The city-based taxi companies have been offering mobile-based advanced bookings for passengers and tourists across Muscat. With the rising diesel prices, there has been a 1.13-per cent increase in the inflation rate compared with the same month last year.