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Photograph: Photo by Ryan Lackey, used under CC BY

Kuwait started enforcing increases in domestic petrol prices on Thursday as low oil prices have put pressure on the crude-producing Gulf country's budget.

The petrol price increases range from around 41 per cent to 83 per cent.

Hours before the new prices went into effect, long lines of cars stretched outside petrol stations across Kuwait in an attempt to refuel at the old prices, witnesses said.

Chief Executive Officer of the state-run Kuwait National Petroleum Company, Mohammad Al Mutari, expects that the price increases will prompt a change in consumption.

Al Mutari told Kuwait's official news agency Kuna that consumers would likely shift from the high-grade petrol to the low-octane petrol, given that the cost of the former per litre has jumped by 61 per cent, the latter only by 41 per cent.

The environmentally-friendly premium Ultra has increased by 83 per cent per litre.

The jump in petrol prices marks the first austerity step in Kuwait that applies to citizens and foreign expatriates alike, independent newspaper Alanba reported.

In April, the Kuwaiti government cut its state subsidy on water and electricity as part of an austerity package.

At the time, the increases were applied to immigrant workers and businesses, while citizens were exempted.

The country has a population of 3.8 million, some 1.2 million of whom are Kuwaiti nationals, while the rest are expatriates and stateless residents, according to official figures.

The rises in petrol prices, Kuwait's first in nearly two decades, have drawn mixed reactions.

"Kuwait is an oil-producing country. How come it increases petrol prices for its citizens?" Kuwaiti national Walid Abdullah told dpa in Kuwait City.

Disagreeing, Fahd al-Uteibi, a Kuwaiti national, said petrol prices in Kuwait are still relatively low after the increases.

"Kuwaitis' salaries are high. So, there is no problem caused by the petrol [price] rises," he added.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries have raised local petrol prices as their governments are struggle with finances as a result of a plunge in oil prices.

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