Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce and Investment (MCI) closed 68 petrol stations across the kingdom on Monday, January 1 on suspicion of hoarding fuel ahead of the nation-wide implementation of price rises.
According to the ministry, the stations had refused to serve customers or closed pumps in the run-up to midnight, December 31 as they waited for the rises to take effect. Officials say that 1,597 stations were inspected as part of ongoing efforts to reduce incidents of price manipulation or fraud.
The price hikes, first announced in early December, has resulted in Octane 91 now selling for SR1.37 a litre, up from SR0.75, and Octane 95 selling for SR2.04 a litre, up from SR0.90. Diesel rates for trucks were left unchanged.
The countdown to January 1 was marked by long queues at petrol stations as consumers sought to fill up before the new prices took effect, with many motorists complaining that only a few pumps were open.
The increase in price is part of a long-term plan to reduce domestic energy consumption, promote energy efficiency and diversify the economy in line with the goals of the Vision 2030 initiative. The Ministry of Commerce and Investment also plans to reduce energy subsidies.
On December 20, King Salman formally announced that the target date for eliminating the government’s budget deficit would be pushed back to 2023.
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