Nepal seeks fuel grant from Saudi Arabia

Nepal’s China wish-list

Additional 11,000 tonnes of gasoline as grant assistance

Construction of three storage facilities in Panchkhal, Trishuli and Khaireni

50 gas bullets of 14-tonne capacity

Exemption of taxes levied by Chinese central and local governments on petroleum export

Kathmandu, December 8

The government of Nepal has approached the government of Saudi Arabia for grant assistance of 20,000 kilolitres of gasoline, citing severe shortage of fuel in the country.

The supply lines from India, on who the country is totally reliant for gasoline import, have been disrupted since the last two-and-a-half months.

The government’s move, however, has been criticised by a former government secretary, who says Nepal should have sought alternative channels to purchase fuel rather than seek petroleum products for free.

It is to be noted that Chinese government has already provided 1,300 kl of petrol to Nepal as grant assistance that Nepal Oil Corporation the state-owned petroleum supply monopoly had received from Kyirong, which is 28 km from Nepal’s Rasuwagadhi border.

As per the request of the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today wrote to the government of Saudi Arabia seeking 10,000 kl petrol and a similar quantity of diesel on grant assistance to ease the lives of people who have been affected, as the fuel crisis has prolonged due to the ongoing protest and border blockade in the Tarai region.

According to MoFA Spokesperson Tara Prasad Pokharel, the government has sought support from oil-exporting country, Saudi Arabia, with whom the country has long-standing diplomatic ties. “However, we have to wait for a few days to get the Saudi government’s response,” he said.

At present, the government is providing limited amount of fuel only to bigger public vehicles, and vehicles of essential services as import from India has dropped by over 80 per cent in the last two months.

In a bid to explore other alternatives, NOC had also signed a framework agreement with Chinese government undertaking China National United Oil Corporation (PetroChina) in Beijing on October 28 to pave the way for petroleum trade with the northern neighbour.

However, as both the oil giants have yet to finalise technical aspects of importing fuel from China, inking the business-to-business (B2B) deal has been stalled. Nepal can begin importing fuel from China only after both oil giants seal B2B deal.

“The government needs to give priority to signing the B2B deal with China, as well as explore other alternatives to import fuel at a commercial scale, rather than keep asking for fuel on grant,” said Purusottam Ojha, former commerce secretary.

Such deals alone can ensure diversification of import and ensure smooth supply of fuel in the country, according to him.

“Seeking grant from friendly nations can provide immediate relief, but it’s high time the government seriously sought alternatives to manage this crisis,” Ojha added.

Monthly consumption of petrol in the country stands at 20,000 kl, diesel at over 70,000 kl, aviation turbine fuel at 10,000 kl and cooking gas at 25,000 tonnes. At this rate, the amount of petrol sought on grant assistance from the Saudi government will last only 15 days and diesel for four days.

Moreover, the government has also sought additional fuel from China on grant assistance. The government has requested Chinese government to provide 5,000 tonnes of cooking gas, 2,600 kl each of petrol, diesel and aviation fuel as grant assistance. The country has sought 50 gas bullets of 14 tonnes capacity from China to ferry cooking gas.

“The government has also asked the Chinese government to help build storage facility in Panchkhal of Kavre, Khaireni of Tanahun and Trishuli of Nuwakot district,” said Shiva Prasad Tripathi, MoCS under-secretary .

Nepal is also seeking exemption of taxes levied by Chinese central and local governments on petroleum export.