TOKYO, The Japanese government has promised to help Mozambique overcome its current fuel difficulties.

Earlier this month, fuel distribution companies warned that the current fuel subsidy system is not working and that, if no changes are made, the country may soon be unable to import liquid fuels. The problem is that the prices fixed by the government for sales to the public of petrol and diesel are lower than the prices paid by the importers on the world market.

The government has promised to pay the companies the difference, but this subsidy is not paid promptly. The companies complained in early March that the government now owed them about 70 million US dollars.

A joint statement issued here Wednesday, after official talks in Tokyo between Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that Abe “expressed his intention to assist Mozambique’s efforts towards economic and fiscal reforms through technical co-operation, and also to support the balance of payments by extending grant aid to procure fuel and other necessary goods”.

No details were given but this looks like a clear pledge of a Japanese grant to purchase liquid fuels. Nothing was said about how much money will be involved or for how long this support will last.

Nyusi did not shed much further light on the issue at a media conference Thursday to wind up his official visit to Japan. He said the two governments would work to set up a mechanism to “stabilize the problem of liquid fuels and of the public finances”.

The details still needed study, Nyusi added, “but everything indicates that it will be through a grant”.