Fabian Demicoli

Gas Distribution: Who Decides?

 Gas Distributors have now been hanging on a thin line for quite a number of years now. Since October 2008, Government with a simple stroke of a pen issued Legal Notice 249 of 2008 which has instantly struck them off the map in the most unethical of ways.

Whilst GRTU is always in favour of continuing discussions on this issue, we truly wonder how a Government cannot even decide on such a trivial issue. For this particular issue we all know the facts, one cannot please three different entities – Liquigas, EasyGas or the existing Gas Distributors.

Discussions started in December 2010 just after the end of year strike and by July 2011, after long hours of discussions a draft legal notice was issued for consultation. The consultation was over by 6th September but still there was not to be decision as Government does not have the will power to come to terms with the fact that not all decisions can please everyone.

Beyond this, another attempt by Government was put in place, a legal notice that would without fail put an onus on the ownership of cylinders. This was introduced on 29th November 2011, but to date the cylinder saga continues and the mess grows deeper.

A third attempt is now being put in place, that of creating an official clearance house under one roof. Even this will go to the deep end if it is not supported by legislation which takes the holistic approach required by our market.

To add insult to injury, MCCAA, the Authority responsible for Competition continues to flog dead horses. This is an Authority that has either risen from the dead or was given instructions by Government to stand tall with the business community. The Office of Competition, OC, (it's no longer called ‘fair competition') struggles with the fact that gas distributors are represented by GRTU. This simple fact seems not to be to their liking. They state that this is in breach of European law. We believe otherwise. God forbid, we have joined the European Community so that businesses can no longer be represented by legitimate Constituted Bodies at law.

As has been for many and many years gas distributors are in charge of separate territories, meaning each gas distributor has a specific area assigned to him to service. The OC, Office of Competition, is has felt the need and therefore is currently carrying out an investigation into the territories assigned to be services by these gas distributors. There is in reality no reason behind this investigation. Real experience of the system for so many years has shown us that this system works and it constitutes a social obligation at law.

Furthermore the importing companies have their side of the story too. One of which has made massive investments and continues to insist that the company has bought the whole distribution system. On the other hand, the other importing company not being in a dominant position continues to drive the market in the directions it desires. There is no telling what the next move will be.

When is this government going to learn that there is a time to listen, a time to discuss, a time to evaluate but also a time to decide?

When is this Government going to decide and implement what it deems as decent in 2012?

When is this Government going to wake up to the realities of the problems faced by this sector?

If it is not able to decide it should move on and let others do the job. Delaying such decisions brings about indecisions that affect human beings, their families and their lives. Gas Distributors ARE human beings, they have families and children at home, they have loans to pay, they have decisions to make. The way this Government has badly handled this sector leaves so much to be desired.

Gas Distributors have a social agreement with the community at large and they will continue to serve the community at large. But the knives behind their backs are becoming unbearable by the day. Each day is another dismal morning.

Government has to wake up to a stark reality, that of either putting its foot down and really put in place a distribution system that works within our community as it has done for so many years or else take braver decisions. A decision that will not please everyone, we can live with that, but no decision is utterly another lost day for this sector of the business community.

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