Ho Chi Minh City residents’ lives turned upside down by gasoline shortages

Drivers report many gas stations with nothing to sell and others severely rationing supplies.
By RFA Vietnamese
Ho Chi Minh City residents’ lives turned upside down by gasoline shortages Drivers line up to refuel their vehicles in this file photograph from 2012.

Residents of Ho Chi Minh City say their travel plans and their lives have been seriously affected by the city’s gas stations stopping or limiting gasoline sales.

From Saturday, people in many of Vietnam’s southern provinces started struggling to buy fuel for their vehicles. As of Monday evening, Ho Chi Minh City alone had more than 100 closed petrol stations bearing "out of gas" signs, while others rationed their meager supplies.

Motorcyclists faced long lines and could only buy gasoline valued at between VND20,000 and VND50,000 (U.S.$ 0.90-U.S.$ 2.20) with prices at around VND22,000 per liter (U.S.$ 0.92).

“People wanting to purchase gasoline have to wait in line,” said Cao Ha Truc, who drives a taxi for the Gojek delivery service. “The gas stations don't sell much and it may take a half an hour of waiting. If you are lucky, you can get it after 15-20 minutes.”

Truc said the lack of petrol in Ho Chi Minh City seriously disrupted his life as he had to line up for a long time, often in bad weather.

A telecommunications worker, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity, said he found it very difficult to refuel for about two days.

"I ran through five or six gas stations before I pulled over to [one] and started filling. Waiting for nearly 20 minutes was very lucky,” the worker said.

“Fortunately, I'm young, so it's okay to run to find it, but I think it's very difficult for older people to get gas because it's very complicated.”

Teacher Nguyen Dai Loc said although gasoline shortages only started two days ago, some gas stations were closed because they had sold out or were refueling, while others were crowded. 

“Yesterday [Oct, 10] I poured [into my tank] VND30,000-worth (U.S.$ 1.25) in the morning. Then I started driving and felt that I didn't have enough gas, so on the way home, I saw another gas station, jumped in and waited to add for another VND30,000. Yesterday's two pours took about 10-15 minutes each. This morning it took longer,” he said.

Loc said because his work is not very busy, waiting to buy gas does not affect his schedule too badly.

 When asked if he had followed the state media’s reasons why gas stations in Ho Chi Minh City stopped or reduced sales, Loc said he had not read the state press for many years because the information was incorrect. 

Loc said he believes the global price of gasoline will drop because Russia will have to cut prices even though OPEC has reduced production.

Researcher Dinh Kim Phuc told RFA he didn’t go out for three days because his motorbike was out of gas

“Gas stations in the area of ​​​​Thu Duc city where I live have signs saying they are out of gas and people can’t buy gas, even though some ‘brick gas stations’ have people selling petrol by bottles for VND30,000 per liter.”

A "brick gasoline station" refers to roadside sellers who often leave a brick and attach a paper funnel above it as a sign for passersby to know where to buy petrol.

Phuc accused the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Industry and Trade of allowing gasoline shortages in Ho Chi Minh City even though it contributes the highest tax in the country.

“It is the irresponsible work of both the Ministry of Finance and Industry and Trade,” he said. “Many economic experts point out that the mistake in the formula for calculating petrol prices by the Ministry of Finance leads to the loss of retail businesses. The more the [gas stations] sell the more they lose and are forced to close their stations and leave people with no gas.”

Phuc said instead of blaming each other, the two ministries should sit down together to find out the causes of gas shortages and urgently come up with solutions.


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