Thursday, May 03, 2007

Gas Rationing, Benzine Cards (Part 1)

Gasoline in Iran is heavily subsidized. It costs less than 10 cents a liter. For years, there have been rumors of rationing to control the rampant use of gasoline and to help normalize the economy. All I can say is that it is more complicated than that. Let me start with my predictions for the effects on poor men and women:

Taxi driving is, in many ways, the male equivalent of prostitution in Iran. A man can make a few bucks a day driving around an old Paykan (9 miles to the gallon) or someone else’s newer car. The point is, these men are operating under the radar. They do not have official taxi licenses even though they may work for official taxi agencies. My local taxi agency employs only two people who have official taxi licenses.

Rumor has it that the official drivers will get an extra ration. This same rumor says that individual car owners will get 3 liters of gasoline a day (that won’t even take the Paykan 10 miles.) “I will be retiring when the rationing begins,” my driver told me yesterday. “I am tired anyway. I’ll go to Shomal and spend my days with my wife. The younger men are really in a bad way though. They don’t know what will happen to them when rationing begins.”

“They don’t have official licenses?”

“Only two of them do.”

So what will happen? This will be a disaster for poor women who, I predict, will be forced out onto the streets by the rationing. One of my friends told me about overhearing this conversation in an apartment building in one of Tehran’s poorest neighborhoods:

“The landlord is coming today for the rent,” a man called out to his 15-year old daughter. “I don’t care how you get it. Don’t come back here until you have the money.”

What do you think, will there be more of these conversations post-rationing or fewer?

Some Links:
Iran considers gas rationing

Iran to start gas rationing

Gasoline smart card delay

NOTE: I have cross-posted this at Mideast Youth. If you have comments, please leave them there.

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