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June 15, 1992
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 38
Gas Coupons

A Rule of Thumb Decree

by Dimitrije Boarov

The "top secret politics" of Radoman Bozovic's government is revealing itself most clearly in the area of energy sources, especially in the decree on the implementation of gas coupons. Eight days after the UN Security Council has adopted a total embargo (including the oil embargo, of course), the Serbian government decided to ration gasoline, so now each owner of a passenger car gets 30 liters of fuel per month (20 in June), those driving government-owned cars can count on 80 liters, while cab drivers got 200 liters (after a lighting-quick strike they got the right to buy 400 liters per month). One could think that according to that decree the quantity of oil which the Serbian Government has at its disposal could be calculated . No way!

Let's start with the official data. If we make a rough hypothesis that Serbia produces (in Vojvodina and Angola) 1.3 million tons of crude oil, and if we apply the 22% proportional share of gasoline, it turns out that 25,000 tons of gasoline from "domestic sources" are available per month. Since there are at least one million cars which run on gasoline, among 1,850,000 motor vehicles, it turns out that each of them should get 25 liters per month, if the imported reserves are not being used. However, this calculation does not take into account certain trivial facts.

First of all, we should forget the oil from Angola while the embargo lasts, because the Bar port simply doesn't have the equipment for unloading oil, while the Romanian case, when 260,000 tons of oil bought before the curtain fell was detained, shows that it was not easy to bring into the country even the oil which was just across the border.

With the maximum possible increase of the production at the oil fields in Vojvodina, in the forthcoming period we could count on 90,000 tons per month. But there is also another problem. Around 30,000 tons out of the above mentioned total quantity consists of the so-called naphtene or non-gasoline oil, from which it is much more economical to produce other oil derivatives. Therefore, we could expect some 13,000 tons of domestic gasoline, i.e. 13 liters per car.

Perhaps the secret of the government's calculation lies in stocks of imported oil or derivatives. Some facts indicate that the situation there is also confused. Mr. Milan Djakovic, the general manager of the Serbian Oil Industry (SOI), has recently mentioned the two-week fuel reserves. Mr. Radovan Pesikan, the general manager of Pancevo refinery, has complained lately that "two-to-three day stocks do not ensure that there will be no shortages on the market." People at the Yugoslav Chamber of Commerce claim that 1,135,000 tons of oil and as much as 675,000 tons of derivatives have been imported during the first two quarters of the year.

It is difficult to take these data as granted. Were they true, that would mean that the SOI has fulfilled the yearly plan of imports of oil derivatives (around 700,000 tons) within six months only, and that only for this it paid 162 million dollars. The plan adopted on May 21, 1992, sets out that total imports this year should be at the mark of 1.043 billion dollars. Out of this amount, 559 million is reserved for crude oil imports, which probably stands for those 4 million tons of necessary imports (at an average price of 150 dollars per ton). So when all of this is added up, it is not sure that a quarter of the necessary quantity of oil has been imported, and it is also uncertain whether the 100% of the planned quantity of oil derivatives have been imported.

Most probably, the Serbian government's calculations are made for the next three months, maybe even shorter. From the consumers' point of view, even the "shorter version" will be a real drag.

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