The government and large oil companies reached an agreement that fixes the cost of gasoline until March 2019. According to the plan, this will eliminate the avalanche-like rise in prices after a sharp increase in excise taxes. Experts evaluate innovations in two ways: a good idea can spoil the nuances of the transaction.
What is offered
After the May price spurt, the government adopted a series of measures, including a short-term reduction in excise taxes. And most importantly, since June 2018, the retail price of fuel in large gas station chains was in fact fixed (adjusted for inflation). But the rise in wholesale prices completely consumed the margin, so independent gas station networks were under attack.
The new agreement assumes the fixation of the small wholesale price, from which two thresholds are calculated. Independent gas stations are allowed to add to it no more than 4% on top.
The arithmetic is as follows: from the new year, the wholesale price of gasoline AI-92 and AI-95 is fixed at 53.5 and 56.6 thousand rubles per ton, respectively. Therefore, the maximum level in retail is 41.73 rubles per liter and 44.1 rubles per liter.
But these are averaged figures for Russia, while each region has its own threshold. For example, the marginal price of AI-95 gasoline in the Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk regions, in Tatarstan and Bashkiria will be about 43 rubles. In Tyumen and the Arkhangelsk region a little more – up to 43.8 rubles per liter, in the Rostov region – more than 45 rubles per liter, in the Crimea – more than 48 rubles per liter.
Since February, the cost will be adjusted by 1.7%, taking into account the New Year's VAT increase (from 18 to 20%), and then the price can grow only in proportion to inflation, which is projected at 4.3% per year. That is about 15 kopecks per month.
Advantages and disadvantages
The new agreement took into account the interests of independent gas stations, which dominate in quantitative terms: out of 25 thousand Russian gas stations, about 15 thousand account for non-chain gas stations. Will the new regulations help small refueling survive?
“Initially, the owners of independent gas stations perceived the agreement with optimism, but, as they say, it was smooth on paper,” says the representative of the Independent Fuel Union, Sergey Boyko. – What we have now, in fact, puts an end to independent gas stations. Initially, we considered justified a margin of 9% for all market participants – this is the level that allows small gas stations to survive normally. As a result, the margin for large gas stations was made at the level of 5%, and small gas stations were allowed to add 4% to the retail price. And it turns out that independent gas stations are in a deliberately disadvantageous position, when their fuel is almost 2 rubles more expensive than that of the VIOCs.
Theoretically, new rules may be in the hands of small gas stations, which are located in remote areas of Russia, where there is no competition with VIOCs. Their customers 4 percent increase will not scare away due to the lack of alternatives. But another problem arises:
“The government promises to control small gas stations, and we know how small businesses can be stifled by checks,” he says. – We fear situations when excessive regulation will complicate life even more.
Is a fuel shortage possible?
When it comes to state regulation of prices, the generation of people who found the late USSR remembers the times of shortages. Selling goods at a fixed cost is not always profitable, and then it's easier … not to sell.
Formally, a number of mechanisms insure against the deficit, for example, the obligation of oil companies to supply 17.5% of the extracted raw materials to the domestic market and to fully satisfy the demand for fuel from independent gas stations. But imbalances are still possible.
“At the moment, it is very difficult to predict the cost and availability of fuel because of the abundance of unknown factors,” says Sergey Boyko. – At the beginning of the year we are waiting for a tax maneuver that will make oil exports more profitable. If at the same time the ruble goes down and the world price of oil rises, the situation will again arise when the VINKs declare the business to be unprofitable and in one way or another try to limit the supply of fuel to the domestic market. This can lead either to its shortage, or rising prices. We do not exclude a repeat of the May escalation, primarily due to the restriction of supplies to the domestic market. But there is no clarity yet.
The new agreement is expected to be signed on November 7th. The government expects that at least it will not allow the January prices for gasoline to grow abruptly.
The sharp rise in fuel prices began in April 2018. After a series of measures, it was possible to stop the rise in price and fix the retail price. This put independent gas stations on the brink of survival.