Bahrain Parliament in Turmoil over Fuel Price Hike
A session of the Bahraini parliament broke up amid shouting and protests Tuesday when several lawmakers, in a rare show of opposition to government policy, vented their anger against a rise in fuel prices.
The government, in a move announced Monday, set the new price for super fuel at 160 Bahraini fils ($0.424) per liter from 100 fils while the price for regular fuel has been raised to 125 fils per liter from 90 fils. New prices took effect Tuesday.
“The decision will make the poor poorer. We demand an improvement to people’s standard of living, and what the government did yesterday will not achieve that,” MP Jamal Dawood said before the speaker adjourned the session.
“The decision ignored that there’s a parliament. We should resign,” lawmaker Mohammad Alamadi said, acording to Reuters.
Bahrain, along with its wealthier Perisan Gulf Arab neighbors, is looking to increase revenue amid falling global oil prices. Like other Persian Gulf oil exporters, it has for years subsidized food, fuel, electricity and water, keeping prices very low in an effort to maintain social order.
The parliament is composed of mostly pro-government legislators since the opposition boycotted a 2014 parliamentary election, making the show of dissent in the Persian Gulf island monarchy all the more unusual.
It was unclear if opponents to the move were a majority in the body, which has limited direct powers in a country where ultimate decision-making lies with the ruling Al-Khalifa family.
In a similarly rare outpouring of anger, around 20 protesters gathered at a petrol station in the village of Jidhafs, west of the capital Manama bearing placards.
“After you stole the country’s wealth, now you are stealing our bread,” one sign read.
Information Minister Isa Abdulrahman said the government wished to allay lawmakers’ concerns.
“The government is ready to cooperate by listening to all points of view and will comply with any constitutional decree issued by the legislature in how to deal with the financial situation,” state media agency BNA quoted him as saying.
Since its oil income began to fall last year, Bahrain’s budget deficit has widened and the subsidies have become harder for the government to afford. Fuel price subsidies have already been eased in Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
The kingdom is already grappling with political tensions since 2011 uprisings, as Bahrainis took to the streets to protest against the ruling regime and demand for democratic reforms. Scores of peaceful protesters have been killed and many more put behind the bars since then.