Despite a prolonged CNG crisis and power shortages, the consumption of major petroleum products has started declining in the country, indicating a marked slowdown in economic activities.
An official at the ministry of petroleum and natural resources told Dawn on Sunday that the government’s expectations about a surge in oil consumption as a result of lower CNG availability had not proven true.
“We were expecting a higher petrol and diesel consumption than last year because of the ongoing dispute with owners of the CNG sector, but the result has proved us wrong,” he said.
He attributed the declining oil consumption to economic slowdown, a lower than anticipated industrial production and no increase in public transport and areas under cultivation, but said that an in-depth analysis of behavioural changes in public life would be required. The official said it was yet to be seen if the declining trend would continue, leading to a revision of oil import estimates.
“People are spending up to five hours in queues for CNG instead of switching over to petrol because of a massive price difference,” he said, adding that no growth in the transport sector had been witnessed – either in the number of vehicles or consumption of petrol and diesel.
“We have noticed that even government servants are pooling their private vehicles and official transport, which appears to be a positive development,” he said.
The government was expecting petrol consumption of 274,150 tons during November, but the figure was 263,000 tons, showing a gap of 3.8 per cent.
The consumption of high speed diesel (HSD), he said, remained short of the target by 2.7 per cent. The government had estimated a consumption of 607,700 tons but it did not go beyond 591,300 tons.
The HSD consumption compared with November last year was 14 per cent lower.
The official said the consumption of furnace oil during the month was 575,000 tons, 31 per cent lower than the estimate of 835,000 tons and 9.4 per cent lower than the figure for the same month last year.
The consumption of light diesel oil dropped by 29 per cent from that of last year and was 36.3 per cent lower than expected.
KEROSENE MISMATCH: Kerosene was the only product whose consumption surpassed the official estimate by 33.4 per cent, mainly because of its increased use in urban areas for cooking and heating with the advent of winter. The government had set a target of 12,000 tons for kerosene consumption for November but it stood at 16,000 tons. This was, however, 5.5 per cent lower than the same month last year because of higher temperatures.
The official said the government had estimated in June that the oil import bill would touch $17.24 billion, about 15 per cent, or $2.3 billion, higher than last year’s import of $14.96bn. These estimates may be revised downwards because of lower international prices and declining consumption patterns. “That could be a blessing in disguise for the government on account of foreign exchange savings,” he said.