Oil hike worries gov’t

Government anxiety over high oil and oil product prices rose again yesterday, as the price of unleaded gasoline exceeded 90 cents per liter, approaching 1 euro in several areas of the country. With oil reaching last night a new all-closing high of $60.54 a barrel in New York – and an intra-session high of $60.95 – the government is worried about the impact on the pockets of car drivers and on the Greek economy as a whole, as higher oil prices are bound to be reflected in thousands of goods. The short-term response is to try and keep gasoline prices under control, as much as possible. Mobile units of the Ministry of Development have increased gas station monitoring in order to crack down on instances of excessive price hikes. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, in a radio interview, did not rule out the eventuality of a price ceiling on gasoline. «This is an extreme measure, which we will resort to only if the situation gets completely out of hand,» Sioufas said. The ministry’s general secretary, Nikos Stefanou, said in a separate radio interview that he «cannot exclude the adopting (of a price ceiling) in certain prefectures where there is a great deviation from the average price.» Sioufas said Greece is far more dependent on oil imports than most of its fellow EU members. Greece spends 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on imports of oil and oil products, while EU members’ spending averages 1.5 percent. The government’s other priority is to combat illicit trade in oil products, which is estimated to cost the state 1.3 to 1.5 billion euros annually. To do so, it will harmonize the taxes imposed on heating oil and diesel fuel.

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