Wot no gas?

By Published On: October 28, 2005Categories: Gas & Oil0 Comments on Wot no gas?

The one place you don’t expect to find gas shortages is in a country where there is 54 trillion cubic feet of the stuff beneath the feet. But for about a month now, these have been the scenes across La Paz as residents in their fustration block roads with their empty "garafas".

People end up queuing sometimes for a few days to get refills. It looks like I will soon have to join them as our kitchen canister sounds decidedly empty.

When I took this picture, a woman angrily asked me why I was taking it. I said it was to tell people in England and other countries about what was going on the country. She decided I wasn’t a shameless tourist clicking everything that moved. She smiled warily: "The thing is that some people might get the impression that we are poor and helpless. But we are actually rich. We have these resources, but because of greed and corruption they don’t get to the people who need them."

It is hard to get clear answer as to why there are such shortages – it is most likely a mix of incompetence, smuggling (gas is highly subsidised so can be sold at good profits if it is smuggled into Peru), and failure of the privatised companies to produce enough for the domestic market.

Some argue it is an attempt by the multinationals to exercise pressure after the passing of a gas law that they want changed. It certainly reflects the fact that companies like Repsol make much larger profits exporting gas than selling internally.  It also shows how the arguments about how Bolivia’s hydrocarbons should be controlled for the benefit of the population, which exploded to the fore in May and June, are still far from being resolved.


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