Retail fuel prices have been gradually increasing in recent weeks, adding another burden for low-income households whose finances have been hit hard by Covid-19.

The retail selling price of petrol in the Kingdom from November 1-15 has been set at 4,550 riel ($1.12) per litre of regular EA92 – with an octane rating of at least 92 – and 4,100 riel per litre of diesel, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Commerce.

The corresponding rates for October 17-31 had been 4,300 riel and 4,000 riel per litre of regular EA92 and diesel, respectively. They had been set at 4,100 riel and 3,800 riel for October 1-16.

Compulsory for licensed petrol service stations but not for street vendors, the pricing serves as a tool to facilitate and enhance cost control nationwide and is calculated semi-monthly by the ministry using data extrapolated from fluctuations in crude oil prices on the international market.

The November 1-15 per-litre rates of regular EA92 petrol and diesel were initially pegged at 4,710 riel and 4,260 riel, but Prime Minister Hun Sen approved a four-US-cent price reduction, in the interest of the people’s livelihoods, according to the ministry.

An attendant at a PTT petrol station along National Road 2 told The Post on November 2, on condition of anonymity, that the price of 95-octane-rated Super petrol had risen to 5,050 riel per litre in November 1-15, up 200 riel from 4,850 riel a fortnight ago.

He stressed that only company owners had the right to adjust the rates of petrol, indicating that he had lambasted by irritated customers reacting to the price hikes.

Chan Phin, a taxi driver based in the capital, told The Post that the constantly rising petrol prices had affected consumers from all walks of life, especially drivers for hire whose incomes he said barely cover the costs of refuelling, as an extensive lineup of ride-hailing platforms set prices lower and lower to remain competitive.

“I just refuelled for $20 when I had generated a mere 50,000 riel in income, not even managing to break even.

“Grab charges a 25 per cent commission, and when it provides customers with 50 per cent discounts, it neglects to reduce its cut from the driver. Fluctuations in payments are not profitable, and now petrol prices are up again,” he lamented.

Cambodian Association for Informal Economy Development president Din Puthy said the increase in fuel prices is affecting the livelihoods of the people, especially those in urban areas and along the border, and added that a large number of workers and traders have lost significant income due to Covid-19.

“As the price of fuel rises, so do the costs of production chains of industrial sites that use machinery, and the price of materials on the market, which affects the livelihoods of the people.

“Covid-19 was already seriously threatening their livelihoods, and now the prices of petrol are rising, it makes things even worse for people,” he said.

While Puthy acknowledged that the trend was not exclusive to Cambodia and that global oil prices are also on the rise, he called on the government to provide subsidies to prevent further inflation, saying the move would bring solace to those suffering from the socio-economic turbulence caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath told The Post that the rise in fuel prices was due to a number of factors, including a surge in global oil prices caused by crises in the Middle East, Opec oil production cuts, economies emerging from Covid-19, and a spike in oil demand from China as its coal woes brew.

He said the climbing petrol prices has adversely affected the entire Cambodian economy, which had just begun to gain the momentum needed to stimulate economic growth and keep people moving.

However, a 10 per cent month-on-month uptick in petrol rates will significantly deter people from travelling, and could very well throw a wrench into the economic recovery, he opined.

“At the moment, the price of oil should not reach these levels.”