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An Average Iraqi

An Average Iraqi is just a fictional character whose....well, fictional. I will use this character to make a comparison between him and real human beings like myself or any one else.

Name:Hassan
Location:Baghdad, Iraq

My name is Hassan Kharrufa. I am a 20 year old Iraqi student. I study civil engineering at the Department of Building and Construction at Al-Jami3a Al-Taknologia (The Tecknology Univirsity), Baghdad, Iraq.

Iraqi Bloggers BiographyUpdated November 11

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

An Average Iraqi Re-Fuelling

  A few days earlier the old system of fuelling at fuel stations was changed, to understand the new system I have to talk about the old system. To shorten the length of the queue waiting to enter the station, which in some cases exceeds a kilometer in length. So the government decided to cut it in half by allowing only cars with even numbers to fuel in a day, and only cars with odd numbers to fuel in another, and by saying numbers I mean license numbers. But even this hasn't been of much help, because the queue always advances slowly, and it is known that the current production is not enough to meet up with the demand, along with other reasons, which don't have their place here. In most cases it is the duty of the National Guard personnel to make sure that only allowed cars enter the station.


  The new system works in another way, first it cuts the cars into two sections; old cars and new cars (called Manifest in Iraq), which defer in license color. Then cuts the Manifest into odd and even. So a driver can only fuel once each 3 days. Which is less than enough for people who drive a lot, like taxi drivers and people who travel long distances from their work to their homes. In other countries, the transit system could take some of the traffic, but the ineffectiveness of the transit system, along with the huge size of the city of Baghdad, makes it useless to use them for transportation.


  This leaves our friend, the Average Iraqi out of choices, but to stand the tall queue of hungry drivers for fuel, and become one of them, where it is your duty to ensure that you keep up and not let anyone take your place, then because the line moves slowly, it is not practical to keep the car running, so you shut it off, and many drivers will choose to push the car when the line moves, rather than start it up and lose precious fuel. Although it's very cheap in Iraq, but it is scarce, the price of one litter of benzene in Iraq is 100 dinars (6 cents) which is half the prize of a one minute call on cell phone, meaning that to fill up medium sized car you need 4000 dinars (2 dollars and 72 cents). But what good is it's cheapness if it is rare and hard to get. Some of the old cars, can be used to pump up fuel out of them, so let's say that someone fuels his old car from a fuel station, and then pulls up the fuel of of it, goes selling the benzene at prices that almost reach 10 times as the original ones at the fuel station, although it is strickly prohibited to sell fuel in the black market, but this is becoming a job for many Iraqis, and a good one if you are in a good place, since many drivers will remember where they can get fuel, and go there every time. Which means the those black sellers are going to be in the station 3 or 4 times a day, or more, taking places of other drivers by doing so.



  Note: This post has been emailed to my Email List subscribers.

31 Comments:

Blogger Lisa, New York said...

Your talk about the "odd/even" system reminds me of the 1970s in the US, when there was a fuel crisis. I was only a kid then but I remember for a while we had the odd/even system at gas stations. And lots of stations would just have signs saying they had no more gas that day. Like I said, I was a kid so it didn't bother me much :-) , but I remember my dad being very frustrated by it.

I hope your fuel situation improves soon.

9:57 PM  
Blogger CharlesWT said...

As long as fuel being sold at 10% of its market value, the situation isn't likely to change anytime soon.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:44 PM  
Blogger CharlesWT said...

Well, you know you have arrived when the comment spammers find your blog... :(

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah those are ad spammers, I saw some on Sunshine's blog.

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually it was raghda's blog

2:55 AM  
Blogger Mad Canuck said...

Hey Hassan,

I wrote a post on this topic a few weeks back myself. As I see it, the main reason you guys have fuel shortages is because the fuel is heavily subsidized: even the "black market" gas in Iraq is less than half what we pay for gasoline in the US, and about a quarter what they'd pay in Europe. This can create a cottage industry of people buying subsidized Iraqi gasoline and illegally exporting it to neighboring countries where they can sell it for a tidy profit.

Another problem with subsidized gas is it's not in the government's interest to fix the supply problem, since every gallon of subsidized gasoline they sell eats up tax dollars that could be used for other initiatives.

The real long-term fix (which I don't think would be very popular) is to stop subsidizing gasoline and let each gas station set its own prices based on fair-market value. If that were to happen, you'd find gasoline would cost more, but there would be lots to go around and no more long queues at service stations.

They had the same problems here in the US in the 1970s - regulated gas prices, resulting in fuel shortages, long lines at gas stations, and rationing. Now today, there are no more price restrictions here, so even though the price of oil and gasoline has shot up this summer, there are no fuel shortages.

3:46 AM  
Blogger quixote said...

I'd guess the reason the price is being kept artificially low is that there are too many people who have no way to pay "fair" prices. So what do you do about them? How big a proportion of the people needing fuel are they? It's not much of a solution to simply price the stuff right out of reach and then say the problem is solved because only a few people can still buy fuel. At least, I sure wouldn't consider a solution if it was applied to me!

8:00 AM  
Blogger CharlesWT said...

Many of the reforms slated for implementation under the program supported by EPCA have yet to be implemented. One of the most important of these pending reforms relates to the extensive and very expensive system of subsidies in Iraq. Perhaps the most egregious of these subsidies is the subsidy that applies to the domestic sale of refined petroleum products.

With its huge reconstruction needs as well as its need to rebuild its social services, including on education and health and also on security, it is hard to justify using such a large amount of Iraq's precious oil resources in this way, in supporting a subsidy on domestic sales of gasoline. This subsidy also creates enormous distortions and encourages smuggling and corruption.
Transcript of a Press Briefing on the 2005 Article IV Review of Iraq

Implementation of the EPCA commitment to increase domestic prices of refined
oil products has yet to occur.

Under the EPCA timeline, the authorities were supposed to
have begun the adjustment of domestic prices by the end of 2004 (see Box 2). Gasoline
prices in the black market have risen to very high levels recently, but the authorities continue
to supply gasoline locally at heavily subsidized prices (about 1.3 US cents per liter of regular
gasoline), including by importing these products at international prices (private imports of
petroleum products are not permitted).

Iraq: 2005 Article IV Consultation—Staff Report; Staff Supplement; Public
Information Notice on the Executive Board Discussion; and Statement by the Executive
Director for Iraq
(.pdf file)

6:01 PM  
Blogger CharlesWT said...

It appears that Iraq has something in common with China:

Cars line up to buy petrol at a petrol station in Dongguan, south China's Guangdong province, August 17, 2005. China's southern manufacturing heartland of Guangdong is plagued by closed service stations, fuel rationing and hours-long gas queues.
China Facing Gas Crisis

8:23 PM  
Blogger Mad Canuck said...

The big problem with subsidizing fuel prices is it encourages the irresponsible and unsustainable use of gasoline. In other countries, if you can't afford gasoline, you rely on public transportation, or live closer to your job, or buy a fuel-efficient car, or keep your car tuned-up, or several other things you can do to save on gas. By subsidizing gas, the government is removing the incentive from consumers to use fuel efficiently.

One problem in Iraq they really need to address before they can really think about eliminating fuel subsidies is fixing the electrical grid. A lot of the fuel consumption in Iraq isn't just from cars, it's from household and neighborhood electrical generators. Burning gasoline to generate electricity is one of the least cost-effective ways to generate it. But, without a stable electrical grid, families don't have much choice.

1:31 AM  
Anonymous michele said...

I am so glad that I found your blog. I am passing the link on to others..
Thanks for keepin us informed.
m

11:12 AM  
Blogger Treasure of Baghdad said...

Hey Hassan,

I am so glad to read ur blog. I am from Baghdad but currently in Erbil for some work and I haven't been to Baghdad for few weeks. I was surprised to discover that we have a new fuel system. That is so terrible. You know what? I feel we are insulted by this procedure in our oil-rich country. Iraq is a rich country and the people here shouldn't suffer to get their simplest right, including electricity and water in addition to the fuel.
I wonder what is really going on in this country. We are not supposed to live like this. Where is the government from all of that? Busy with the constitution? They are dealing with the constitution but they have left the other important right so of the people. I can tell you Hassan that we are really fed up and we don't know what the next step will be.
I am happy to tell you that I like ur blog. I knew the address through the article of the Washington Post about it. Good Luck.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:57 AM  
Blogger cile said...

huhh??! article in washington post about aviraqi blog? show us the link? (please ;)

3:57 PM  
Blogger CharlesWT said...

Kharrufa mostly writes about politics, but an entry in April about a party he attended has proved the most controversial. He and his friends decorated a courtyard at their college with morbid symbols of the past few years: a funeral tent, a poster adorned with weaponry and a human-size replica of New York's World Trade Center.

Several American readers posted comments arguing that the decorations showed poor taste. Kharrufa defended himself.

"At first I was sad, because they misunderstood my meaning. It was supposed to show what we have been through," he said. "But I realized it is a reasonable discussion with people across the world. That is a good thing."
Iraqi Bloggers Describe Life Lived Amid Long Turmoil (Washington Post—free subscription required)

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Don Cox said...

"I wonder what is really going on in this country."____Sabotage of pipelines? Rocket attacks on refineries? Threats to tanker drivers? Shortage of tankers?

7:55 PM  
Blogger Hassan said...

Well, you know you have arrived when the comment spammers find your blog... :(
Well thanks to my great friend Madcanuck I don't have to worry much about them.

I am so glad that I found your blog. I am passing the link on to others..
Thanks for keepin us informed.


I'm always happy to meet other bloggers and link to them...

9:11 PM  
Blogger Lisa, New York said...

CharlesWT,

Wow, the media can't even get the simplest things right, can they?

In a chilling 5,000-word posting on his blog last month, Jarrar, 22, described being detained by the Americans for more than a week and accused of being a terrorist.

Um, he wasn't "detained by the Americans". He was detained by the Iraqi security forces and released after appearing before an Iraqi judge. I don't believe he was ever spoken to or touched by an American during the entire time yet this Washington Post "reporter" makes it appear as if he was detained and interrogated by Americans.

And the media wonders why they are held in such low esteem. When things like this happen again and again, and their readers know more about a subject than the supposed "journalist" does, we wonder why we should even read their "stories".
.

9:45 PM  
Blogger dancewater said...

Hassan,

I like your blog and hope you keep writing about what is happening in Iraq. Our media (in the USA) does suck, and like Lisa said, we are left to try and figure out what is going on and what is really true.

Lisa, I think the Iraqi Security Forces (secret service) is still under the Americans. This is per Khalid Jarrar's report on his arrest by the Iraqi secret service.

MadCanuck - seems like a lack of subsidizing by the US has not resulted in fuel efficient cars....

And I think you are right that the lack of electrical supply is a big factor in fuel shortages, but the lack of stable electricity is the result of the war which is still ongoing..... and will be for years it seems. So, how do you solve that one?

10:24 PM  
Blogger Lisa, New York said...

dancewater,

I don't believe the reporter was trying to make some holistic statement about the ultimate control of Iraqi forces being in American hands. He specifically wrote that Khalid was "detained by the Americans" (without mentioning Iraqi forces at all) and then went on to recount some of the interrogation questions. Anyone reading that would come to the false conclusion that American soldiers had detained and questioned Khalid.

10:48 PM  
Blogger quixote said...

Mad Canuck: thanks for your response. I'd like to add that I agree *in principle* with the idea that subsidies skew the market. However, remember the invisible subsidies as well as the visible ones: we all have ridiculously cheap oil given its pollution subsidy, global warming subsidy, and all the other costs we pay rather than the oil companies.

I also agree that a couple of cents per liter does sound on the low side.... Although I gather that a recent University of Baghdad study found a 70% unemployment rate. That's got to reduce the money supply a tad.... As you point out, there are so many interlocking problems that it's hard to know where to start.

My personal preference is to start somewhere that costs Halliburton money, not the unemployed Iraqi.

1:20 AM  
Blogger Mad Canuck said...

Dancewater: Actually, for several months, the US was picking up the tab for fuel subsidies in Iraq, mostly to placate the drivers who were used to paying those kinds of prices under Saddam. It was not until after the interim Iraqi government took over that this responsibility was passed over. Unfortunately, this means that gas subsidies are using up tax dollars that could be used for other things (fixing the electrical grid, etc.).

Quixote: Halliburton is a for-profit company. They are only in Iraq to make money. If it starts to cost them money, they'll just pack up and leave. Welcome to the wonderful world of capitalism... :)

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