'Bureaucratic infighting blocking fuels market reform'

State Comptroller says government infighting impedes competition in fuels market, hampers infrastructure development.

Total gas pipeline (photo credit: Reuters)
Total gas pipeline
(photo credit: Reuters)
Expansion of competition in the fuels market and the development of infrastructure at Haifa port is being prevented by infighting involving government offices and state companies, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said in his report issued Monday.
The State Comptroller’s Office investigated actions taken taken to reform the fuels market between March 2009 and April 2011. In particular, it examined the National Infrastructures Ministry, Finance Ministry, Antitrust Authority, the state-owned Petroleum and Energy Infrastructures Company, and Haifa Municipality.
According to Lindenstrauss, the National Infrastructures and Finance ministries are still yet to submit a proposal to the government based on the recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee, which examined physical, bureaucratic and competitive barriers to improving competition and infrastructure in the fuels market – even though the committee submitted its recommendations in January 2010.
The postponement resulted from a lack of agreement between ministries over how to balance the needs of the Haifa Municipality and the planning and safety requirements of the Haifa port with the need to improve competition, the report said.
In addition, the Antitrust Authority and Finance Ministry still have not finished deliberating on findings based on data collected from oil refineries and other bodies in the energy industry, the comptroller said. He added that completion of these deliberations was essential to removing barriers to competition.
Infighting was also blamed for blocking decisions on infrastructure. Lindenstrauss said an absence of coordination and an overlapping of authorities between government bodies responsible for development in the Haifa ports area had delayed the establishment of new infrastructure there, which would improve the ease of refined fuels importation. On top of this, the Transport Ministry was taken to account for delaying a bill on the development of infrastructure at the port.