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Harare Considers 800% Fuel Price Rise to Market Levels

Zimbabwean drivers could be facing an 800% increase in the official price of gasoline as the government contemplates an increase to the levels prevailing on the parallel or black market. But the move could make it easier for consumers to obtain fuel through authorized outlets, many of which are already demanding free-market prices.

The stiff increase in the price of gasoline from Z$22,300 a liter to $200,000 has yet to be approved by President Robert Mugabe's cabinet. But it has been endorsed by the "stakeholders" committee convened recently by the Ministry of Energy and Power. Diesel fuel, now going for $20,800 a liter, is expected to see a similar rise.

State fuel distribution has been plagued by corruption - much, if not most, of the fuel that is made available at the official price by the National Oil Compny of Zimbabwe finds its way onto the black market where officials and cronies reap huge profits.

In March, authorities arrested two senior officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party, member of parliament Enoch Porusingazi, and Mutare businessman Esau Mupfumi, on charges of fraudulently obtaining 1.3 million liters of diesel fuel from NOCZIM for resale. Also, State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa has threatened to confiscate agricultural property from resettled farmers who have abused their access to state supplies.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked independent economist John Robertson of Harare why Harare is finally bowing to economic reality.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...