The discount on a litre of fuel came into effect on April 1. | Jaume Morey


There is concern in the Balearics that the 20 cents reduction in the price of a litre of fuel could lead to prices actually increasing. This is because of a lack of sufficient specification as to how this reduction is meant to operate and the terms for handling the discount.

Spain's finance minister, María Jesús Montero, said on Thursday that petrol stations will have a form at their disposal on the Tax Agency's website. This can be filled out with requests for reimbursing them. Transfers will then begin to be made "starting next week". But it is precisely this lack of definition as to dates that is causing concern for petrol stations.

Rafel Matas, president of the association of service stations within the Pimem federation of small to medium-sized business associations, says that "Spain is very large and it is not known exactly when these payments will arrive". "If the terms are not well explained, a cash crisis could be created." If the uncertainty persists, petrol stations could decide to increase prices, the very situation that the Spanish government wants to avoid. (The government is funding three-quarters of the discount and suppliers the rest.)

It has been suggested that many petrol stations will be unable to stay open for the whole of April, if they don't have sufficient cash to cover the discount. Joan Mayans of the federation of Balearic service stations says that petrol stations sell an average of 250,000 litres of fuel per month, so they will have to advance around 50,000 euros. "We can last a few days, but not the whole month."

Matas is complaining of a lack of respect being shown by the government to petrol stations. There were only two days between the discount measure being officially notified (in the Official Bulletin of State) and it coming into effect (April 1). This was a "clearly insufficient period to prepare".

He adds that a temporary closure of petrol stations would not be "a good idea". It would result in queues at stations that are open, while it could harm these businesses themselves, if they don't get the payments from the government. As the measure will last until the end of June, there could be additional problems because the number of tourists will increase.