Oil firms will make consumers 'happy': Naik

NEW DELHI April 9. Prices of petrol and diesel are likely to be reduced next week in line with the dip in international crude oil prices. An indication to this effect was given today by the Petroleum Minister, Ram Naik, who said oil companies were sure to make consumers "happy" at their next review.

The fortnightly review of oil prices is set to take place on April 1. Speaking to newspersons today, Mr. Naik said that crude oil prices had fallen substantially in world markets owing to the expected resolution of the Iraq war.

"Oil companies will take these changes into account. I am sure they will make consumers happy."

On the criticism that the oil companies had not yet reduced prices despite fall in global markets, he said the situation was still volatile though the decline in prices began after the war began on March 30. He said the price of the Indian basket of crude was now about $23.50 a barrel as against $26 at the beginning of the war and $32.30 about a month ago. The price of the Indian basket had even touched $32.56 dollars a barrel during the last three months though the peak rate was for the Brent benchmark crude which rose to $34.73.

The decline now gives considerable leeway to the oil companies to reduce prices especially since the petrol prices had risen by over 26 per cent during 2002-03.

The diesel prices had gone up by around 33 per cent. Mr. Naik said that there had been no disruption in supplies despite the onset of the war. Though a contingency plan had been put in place, only some elements were actually implemented, such as topping up the tankages at all refineries.

He said that the threat of war in the past year had affected the country. The rise in the international crude oil prices had resulted in the oil import bill rising from $12.64 billion in 2001-02 to $15.71 billion in 2002-03.