Ben-Eliezer tells taxi drivers he'll consider diesel price cap

Taxi drivers are feeling the crunch of higher fuel costs, which can amount to 40 percent of a driver's daily income.

taxi bad 88 224 (photo credit: Kessia Lurie)
taxi bad 88 224
(photo credit: Kessia Lurie)
Taxi and truck drivers were finally able to express their frustration with rising diesel prices at a Tuesday meeting with National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. They were joined by ministry director-general Hezi Kugler, Fuel Authority managing director Chen Bar-Yosef and Taxi Drivers Association chairman Yehuda Bar-Or. This meeting follows the June 20 demonstration where hundreds of bus drivers, taxi drivers and truck drivers, attempting to clog the Ayalon Highway, Tel Aviv's main artery, gathered At the meeting, the drivers highlighted the damaging effect of exorbitant diesel prices on their livelihood and demanded immediate change. Lack of government supervision and failure to impose a maximum price per liter, they said, had led to prices disproportionate to those elsewhere in the world. In past years, the government oversaw gas and diesel prices, but recent privatization of diesel companies has led to price increases. Whereas six years ago, according to local cab drivers, diesel cost NIS 1 per liter, compared to the benzene cost of NIS 3 per liter, now benzene costs NIS 7 per liter and diesel costs more than NIS 10 per liter. Ben-Eliezer empathized with taxi drivers nationwide and committed to addressing the pressing issue through regulation of diesel prices in gas stations. "I am ready to make any effort in conjunction with the finance minister and his office in order to investigate and reinstitute supervision over diesel companies," he said. "I know that it isn't a simple matter to be a taxi or truck driver these days. In this case, we aren't talking about luxuries, as in the case of gas for private drivers, but rather their income. Therefore the rise in gas prices is a very severe problem." The National Infrastructures and Finance ministries have teamed up to form a group focused on analyzing the issue. They plan on compiling a list of prices from various gas stations nationwide to impose a maximum price per liter so that the gas market will be controlled. According to Shlomo Dahan, who has been a Jerusalem taxi-driver for 21 years, it is impossible to work under current conditions. "The high diesel prices make work difficult," he said. "It isn't worth it for me to drive outside the city; gas costs take all of my profits." Dahan said he spends 40 percent of his total daily income on diesel, whose price has risen 460% since 2002. He and many other taxi drivers feel they have no choice when it comes to purchasing oil. They say diesel is a safer and more efficient fuel, providing them with 15 kilometers per liter, while benzene only gives them 7 km. per liter. Dahan believes the proposed government supervision won't alleviate the problem. The only solution, he said, is a lowering of the excise tax. "I was never in overdraft, but now I am," said Dahan. "The government must help us by lowering taxes." He said the government takes 4 NIS in tax from every 10 NIS (40%) that he pays per liter. Ben-Eliezer promised to try his hardest, but said his hands were tied because determining taxes falls under the jurisdiction of the Finance Ministry.