Fueled up for greater competition

Wednesday, 29 March 2023 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka’s fuel industry has undergone significant changes in recent years, but none more significant than this week’s announcement of distribution licenses to three global oil companies. The industry was dominated by the loss-making state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). CPC along with privately owned Indian Oil Company subsidiary, Lanka IOC owned 85% and 15% of the gas stations across the island respectively. 

Now Sinopec, United Petroleum, Australia, and RM Parks, USA have gained access to Sri Lanka’s retail market in partnership with Shell PLC, which brings decades of experience in the fuel industry. 

One of the key benefits of a more competitive fuel market is the potential for lower fuel prices without relying on subsidised prices as well as greater efficiency in the fuel market. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka reported that fuel prices are a major contributor to inflation in the country. In 2022, rising global prices and declining exchange rates forced Governments to raise fuel prices. The entry of foreign firms can put downward pressure on prices as firms compete for market share. 

This would be a welcome relief for consumers, who have long struggled with high fuel prices without subsidies. It could also increase the efficiency and quality of fuel delivery, as companies are forced to improve their services in order to remain competitive.

Furthermore, the entry of foreign companies into the market could lead to increased investment in Sri Lanka’s fuel infrastructure. According to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Petroleum Resources Development, the Government will invest in expanding the capacity of the country’s refineries. This will create jobs and boost the country’s economy while improving the reliability and safety of fuel supplies.  Officials recently visited Trincomalee in the Eastern Province. 

There, the Lanka IOC, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, and the Government agreed to jointly develop a World War II-era oil tank. India has pledged to help Sri Lanka develop into a regional oil hub.

However, it is important that the Sri Lankan Government carefully consider the potential impact of increased competition in the fuel market before making any decision. This could include the implementation of regulations to ensure that companies meet high safety and environmental standards, as well as measures to protect the interests of all market participants. The news is particularly alarming as countries around the world seek more efficient sources of energy and move away from oil and coal, which pose great environmental concerns and polluting impacts.  

According to a report by the International Energy Agency, Sri Lanka has great potential in the field of renewable energy, especially wind and solar energy. Increased competition in fuel markets could provide incentives for companies to invest in these renewable energy sources, helping reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. So, despite these concerns, increased competition in the fuel market could bring significant benefits to Sri Lanka as a whole. 

Overall, the entry of foreign companies into Sri Lanka’s fuel market is a complex matter with potential strengths and weaknesses. Increased competition could lead to lower fuel prices and more investment in infrastructure, but could also lead to less competition and potential environmental risks in the long term. 

It is important that the Sri Lankan Government carefully assess the potential impact of increased competition in the fuel market and introduce regulations to help businesses maintain high safety and environmental standards. This allows the country to create a healthy and sustainable fuel market that can support the country’s economic growth and development.