Surging fuel costs in Lebanon leave cars off roads

Surging fuel costs in Lebanon have forced Mohammad Eido, a 46-year-old university teacher, to sell his BMW and opted for sharing his brother’s car or using public transport, like many other commuters who struggle to cope with galloping inflation in the crisis-ridden country.

Despite having sold his limousine at 12,000 U.S. dollars, Eido told Xinhua that his monthly salary of 12 million Lebanese pounds, equivalent to 111.8 dollars at the parallel market, could barely cover his mounting food bills amid the economic crisis.

“Honestly, when gasoline prices went up, I stopped using my car … until I noticed that it’s nonsense to keep it, as I won’t be able to use it anymore,” Eido told Xinhua.

The Energy Ministry announced on Monday that the price of 20 liters of gasoline reached 1,996,000 pounds (about 18.6 dollars on the parallel market), compared to the same volume in June 2021 which had cost 61,000 pounds, or four dollars then.

The lastest round of prices surge came after the foreign reserve-strapped Lebanese central bank lift all major subsidies for gasoline import in September 2022.

Rasha Ghanem, a marketing manager at a Lebanese trading company, told Xinhua she had taken advantage of the warm season to use her expat brother’s motorbike for commute, leaving her car in the garage to save on fuel costs.

“I will have to figure out what to do with my daily transport options a few months later when winter is back,” she added.

As for Layal Mehdi, a legal secretary in Beirut, she prepared to ask a neighbor for a ride to and from work. “We are forced to come up with solutions to cut our expenses as much as possible,” Mehdi told Xinhua.

Lebanon has been facing an unprecedented financial crisis, causing a collapse in the local currency and plunging over three-quarters of the population into poverty. The crisis also forced banks to impose restrictions on withdrawals of deposits in the Lebanese pound and U.S. dollar, which exacerbated the worsening living conditions of the Lebanese.

The dire economic situation forced Lebanese citizens to focus their purchases on the most basic needs, including food, medicines, and education, while trying to cut other expenses, hoping to make ends meet.

Representative of fuel distribution companies in Lebanon Fadi Abou Chakra, told Xinhua that gasoline prices have increased due to rises in import cost, resulting in “a drop of demand for the commodity by around 40 percent.”

Lebanese citizens have often urged their government to overhaul the public transport sector to provide affordable and effective services.

The transport ministry, despite having received 50 donated buses from the French government in 2022, only put 10 of them on duty for one month as there were no sufficient funds to cover the cost of manpower and fuel of the entire fleet, Bassam Tleis, head of the land transport unions, told Xinhua.

He added that the government planned to partner with private companies in operating and maintaining the buses, an option which he said suit Lebanon’s current situation. ■

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