Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Weekly Sneak: Elephants, Lemonade and Arm Chair Economics

The East African's deadline regularly sneaks up on me unannounced so that it can breathe down my neck, which can be a good thing. I am a last-minute thinker, sometimes my most creative or interesting writing comes from the combination of fear and desperation that a looming deadline inspires. And since I don't want to give The Men In Nairobi any reason to call me in for a "friendly little chat" about delivering on time...

This week's article was written on the fly, and in reaction to the fact that one or two of you have subjected me to that Tanzanian question/command thing. You know, the one where you ask a negative question: "I am surprised to see that you haven't written anything about the fuel crisis..." when what you really mean is "Get off your big African heritage, slacker, while this topic is still relevant." Okay, here goes:
"Is there a dirtier business in the world than that of petroleum? As an end consumer, I am always amazed by the reasons fuel retailers come up with not to ever reflect a drop in the price of petrol at the pump. The most common one is that they have bought the fuel at high prices and so must keep selling the more expensive stock at high prices so as to recoup their costs at the very least. Add in there the vagaries of the world market and currency exchange rate shenanigans amongst other sophisticated tools of modern capitalism, and retailers can effectively confuse the argument in their favor. It seems that no matter what else is going on, fuel prices will always increase, taxi drivers will always have a reason to extort higher fares and public transportation operators can also squeeze a few more vijisenti from the citizens. I am not sure, but I think this is the kind of thing that economists refer to as “growth.”
So this ka-fuel crisis? Sijui. I am not picking any sides except mine, as an exasperated citizen. The fuel shortage is practically over and by the time the article prints it will be yesterday's news. It has been an interesting political case study, though, hasn't it? Happy motoring.

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