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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Price Controls - Failures

No matter how nice Price Controls sound to the public, the truth is they will eventually fail. There may be a TEMPORARY solution for a pressing need during a severe calamity but Price Controls extract a massive cost to any economy if applied over an extended period of time.

The Government of Kenya (GoK) - in this case most of the populist but greedy/hypocritical legislators aka MPigs -  in its usual moronic manner instituted Price Controls on fuels... Now the idiots who pushed for it are shocked that the Price Controls do not work...

Price Controls create Rent Seeking opportunities among those who have the power to control the supply/sale of these goods/services.

When an Oil Marketing Company (OMC) cannot earn a decent Rate of Return on its investment, it will minimize or stop its activities.

Some Kenyan banks are paying 25% for KES 50mn (or more) for 3-month deposits. Loans are cost a minimum of 25% p.a. therefore the incentive to 'invest' or 'trade' does not make sense for many OMCs.

My analysis is that many OMCs are bringing in the minimum amounts of fuel required to run their retail outlets to attempt to cover the minimum fixed costs. There is little incentive to take additional risks to import fuel to 'trade' thus Kenya will face a fuel shortage unless steps are taken to increase the margins allowed under the Price Controls.

Kenya has an INEFFECTIVE bureaucracy to monitor fuel adulteration which is how some of the OMCs stay in business.

Free Markets allow for many Sellers & Buyers. The first condition is being decimated under the current Price Control regime. The 'smaller' players who cannot internally finance the fuel imports are being driven out of business.

Kenya's largest OMC by volume (Total Kenya) reported a loss for 3Q 2011 on its fuel operations. The only other OMC that publishes its results is KenolKobil which has a regional network & extensive Trading Operations within Africa. It would not surprise me if some of the mid-sized & smaller OMCs close up shop in 2012 if the Price Controls (which squeeze the margins) remain in place.

I am certain many of the petrol stations adulterate the fuel:

- Kerosene/AGO's specific gravity is similar to Diesel's thus some stations would mix (tax-free) kerosene into diesel. Good for sellers. Bad for buyers.
- Regular petrol mixed in Super petrol then sold as Super/Premium. Good for sellers. Bad for buyers.

This is a complex topic but the simple message is that Price Controls do not work.


Eastlandah said...

'...I am certain many of the petrol stations adulterate the fuel:...'

Witnessed this firsthand, and attendant acknowledged it happens. Then goes ahead to say' hii ni kenya mzee'. Feels like you don't deserve an ounce of being a buyer!

coldtusker said...

@Eastlandah - I only go to the Stations that are branded KenolKobil, Total or Shell. What station did this happen at?

Never buy diesel where they sell kerosene!