The steep rise in petrol prices as part of a programme of subsidy reforms has received mixed reactions from Bahrainis. Many citizens are understandably annoyed about having to pay around 60% more to fill up their car petrol tanks. However, while some simply blame the authorities, others demonstrate a broader understanding of the wider context – the need to balance the Budget following a steep drop in oil revenues and the unaffordability of the current sanctions system.
Many Bahrainis recognize that such changes were necessary, but objected to the sudden manner in which they were introduced and the lack of a wider debate ahead of this move. Meanwhile, others recognized that petrol prices were still far below prices for much of the rest of the world, and even pointed out that there could be environmental benefits if the move encouraged people to use their cars less:
“Time for people to be less dependent on the Government”
“It’s about time for things to change and it’s time for people to be less dependent on the Government. All they expect is for the Government to give out things for free, whether through subsidies or royal gestures. This is wrong behaviour that Bahrainis have become accustomed to. I believe it is good that things have changed and that people are starting to become more independent, in order for us Bahrainis to feel more responsible whether towards electricity, water, gas or any other expenditure;” said Mariam, age 27, from Budaiya.
“I’m not against cutting down the oil subsidies or other subsidies. I’m just against the way the Government has done it. It could’ve been a step by step process or an income-based subsidy cut, instead of just cutting down the oil subsidy on each and every Bahraini, the rich and the poor. The Government should be more responsible before taking such steps;” said Manal, age 31, from Saar.
“We need to start appreciating what we have, despite the subsidy cuts, we still live in a relatively good economic condition in comparison to other countries. Yes we certainly have some Bahrainis who face more economic challenges than others yet life here is better than elsewhere, food and other appliances are still cheap. In comparison to other countries even oil is still cheap following the subsidy cuts;” said Khalid, age 28 from Riffa.
“As if we were in a state of war”
“The government did not prepare the public, the decision was sort of sudden. We are expected to be prepared to face such challenges and not to wake up to an economically challenged country with rising oil prices while we’ve lived in comfortable economic conditions for decades since the modern establishment of the state,” said Ahmed, age 33, from Budaiya.
“The most disturbing was the reaction of the many Bahrainis who rushed to petrol stations to full up their gas tanks as if we were in a state of war and as if it would make a difference to fill your tank with the lower gas prices for the last time. It was disturbing as we were used to Bahrainis having dignity and not to Bahrainis acting so irresponsibly and with complete ignorance;” said Ibrahim, age 38, from Riffa.
“It is expected that for every nation to grow, citizens should start paying taxes, prices of goods increase and government subsidies are cut etc. Unlike what many people say, Bahrainis were informed that the country is going through a financial crisis and that government subsidies will be cut including the oil subsidies. I believe that we have to act as responsible citizens and to consider the security and economic challenges faced by our country and the region;” said Mohammed 27, Hamad Town.
“Embarrassing behavior by MP”
“The worst thing about this crisis over petrol prices was the embarrassing behavior by MPs. Because the Government didn’t discuss this issue with them in advance they started boycotting Parliament sessions and behaving like troublesome children. If we are going to deal properly with the subsidies file, we need our politicians to work together like grown-ups;” said Hala, age 32, from Muharraq.
“This is just another irresponsible step by the government it reflects the lack of an economic vision for the country. The Government should be capable of handling an economic crisis especially when it is going through political instability that has resulted from economic challenges. This just makes the situation worse. I hope that the subsidy cuts don’t cause further economic damage, as many Bahraini families are facing major day to day financial troubles;” said Noor 38, from Saar.
“The government is cutting down on subsidies while it still spends on ridiculous events and pointless projects. It lacks a wise strategy that can raise the country’s economy. Bahrain is certainly not as rich as its neighbours but its people can still live in economic stability if the country follows a strong economic vision and the government starts fighting corruption” Salman 31, Isa Town.
“We should act responsibly”
“It is deeply saddening to see that people don’t have the basic awareness for why the oil prices had to rise and what are the government subsidies. The Government is to be blamed for that since it did not work hard enough to build such awareness;” said Abdullah, 34 from Manama.
“People are completely dependent on the Government. Some of them call for democracy while they want to continue depending on a Government that subsidises goods and services, this doesn’t sounds realistic. We should act responsibly like people in other developed nations in order to move forward in all aspects of life. We are facing economic challenges at the moment but things will get better at some point definitely, if we act responsibly;” said Hamad 28, from Muharraq.
“Few Bahrainis have taken the environmental aspect into consideration, the higher the oil prices, the less cars on the streets, the better this would be for the environment as this will decrease the level of pollution. We always disregard the good that can come out of any decision. We are paying more for oil now, but if fewer people use their cars for pointless driving then we will have less traffic. There are many advantages to this decision that the general public don’t think of;” said Sarah 36, Manama