Lebanon to Gradually Lift Fuel Subsidies

Published June 27th, 2021 - 08:30 GMT
Lebanon to Gradually Lift Fuel Subsidies
The price of a gas canister is expected to jump from 44,000 pounds to more than 60,000 pounds. (Shutterstock)
Highlights
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Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab approved a proposal to finance fuel imports at a rate of 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the US dollar on Friday, instead of the previous 1,500 pound rate, amid worsening gasoline shortages.
 

The decision is likely to increase the price of gasoline sharply, but is expected to temporarily ease the shortage crisis in the country.

The price of a gas canister is expected to jump from 44,000 pounds to more than 60,000 pounds.

Bassam Tlais, head of the Land Transport Union, said: “We are at the crater of the fuel volcano. What is happening is a gradual lifting of subsidies (that) will negatively affect drivers and the transport sector.”

Diab’s media office said: “We are at the gates of the summer season, which will allow an increase in the value of hard currencies that will come to Lebanon with the arrival of expatriates and tourists, with the consequent positive results.”

It also announced in a statement that Diab “gave the exceptional approval of the finance minister’s proposal to allow the financing of the import of fuel based on the dollar exchange rate of 3,900 pounds instead of 1,500 pounds, based on Article 91 of the Monetary and Credit Law.”

The prime minister’s office said that signing the borrowing request from the Banque Du Liban (BDL) was necessary to cover the fuel subsidy.

It added it “accompanies the approval of the financing card in the joint parliamentary committees in preparation for its approval in a public parliamentary session next week … to secure fuel for citizens during the next three months.”

The dollar exchange rate, meanwhile, crossed the threshold of 16,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market for the first time in Lebanon, trading between 16,300-16,350 pounds to the dollar on Friday.

The same day, the mayor of Burj Al-Barajneh in the southern suburb of Beirut expressed his worry at citizens’ inability to secure their livelihood.

Atef Mansour issued a distress call because “the circumstances have exceeded the humanly acceptable range.”

Mansour told Arab News that “the situation is dire and miserable throughout the country.

“When I speak on behalf of my region in the southern suburb of Beirut, I reflect the true reality of Lebanon.”

The mayor added: “Today, a person who wants (an operation) tomorrow came to me asking for 750,000 pounds because the doctor refused to operate without receiving his fees in advance, even though the patient has health insurance.”

He said people “lack medicine and are humiliated at gas stations. Officials are absent under a corrupt regime.”

“The municipality, which was feeding its financial fund from financial levy and building permits, is unable to find solutions. The financial levy fell to 10 percent after people stopped paying taxes because they wanted to give priority to feeding their families, and construction operations also stopped.”

He said the municipality dismissed some workers because “we can no longer pay their salaries.”

The mayor's remarks came as the Vatican announced a meeting will be organized by Pope Francis with representatives of Lebanon’s 10 Christian denominations on July 1.

The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, told a press conference on Friday that “the Vatican alone cannot help Lebanon, and the entire international community must stand by this country.

“Through the July 1 meeting, we want to form a common vision with the heads of the sects so that we would have clarity of vision and move as necessary.”

The protest movements that have returned to the streets have spread over the past two days to the outskirts of the southern suburbs of Beirut and in villages and towns in the Bekaa and the south of the country, which are considered Hezbollah strongholds.

Amid a worsening political and economic crisis, the Amal movement and Hezbollah called on their supporters on social media “to follow the highest levels of discipline.”

They were also urged to show “a spirit of brotherhood, reject discrimination, and not to engage in any arguments that may lead to division in the same house.”

Attempts to solve internal disputes between Hezbollah’s allies were manifested on Friday following an agreement between social media officials of the group and the Free Patriotic Movement.

They stressed the need for a “close relationship between the two parties.”


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