Technology Dispute in Lebanon: closing of service stations and rising...

Dispute in Lebanon: closing of service stations and rising prices

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Many petrol-free petrol stations closed in Lebanon on Saturday and prices have risen again due to a shortage of the greenback as a result of a severe economic crisis, a key driver of an unprecedented attack on power.

Restrictions on withdrawals or conversions imposed by banks since August due to the economic crisis have been reinforced with the protest launched on October 17 – the banks having closed for two weeks – reviving fears over the monetary and financial situation. bank of the country.

At the reopening of banks, the restrictions were further strengthened, but President Michel Aoun and officials of the banking sector promised Saturday to take the necessary measures to improve the situation and that businesses can remain open.

Reserves at several service stations have run out and the import of petroleum derivatives is becoming complicated and costly because of the dwindling nature of the greenback on the market.

In Lebanon, the US dollar is used in the same way as the Lebanese pound, indexed to the dollar since 1997 at the rate of 1,507.5 pounds to the dollar.

The owners of the service stations, who pay their suppliers in dollars and cash in local currency, deplore a higher rate on the black market (between 1,650 and 1,800 pounds for a dollar).

"The service stations that opened today are those that still have reserves, and they will close as soon as their stock is exhausted," Sami Brax, chairman of the service station owners union, told AFP.

In order to stop a shortage of essential goods, the Central Bank adopted at the beginning of October new regulations allowing petrol stations to honor 15% of the amount due to importers in dollars and the rest in Lebanese pounds.

"Our request is to be able to pay all the amounts in Lebanese pounds," said Brax.

Since October 17, the Lebanese demonstrate daily to demand the departure of the entire ruling class, deemed corrupt and unable to put an end to the economic slump.

The protest led to Prime Minister Saad Hariri's resignation on October 29, but negotiations dragged on for the formation of a new government.

On Saturday, as the demonstrations continued, a sit-in was held outside the building of the Foreign Ministry, whose resigned tenant Gebran Bassil, also son-in-law of the head of state, has been conspired almost unanimously since the beginning of the movement. .

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"If the government is not formed soon, the situation may worsen," warned a bank source.

Financial fear

"The pressure on the banks has increased on the part of local customers and expatriates," admits Nassib Ghobril, director of research at Byblos Bank.

Scenes of tense exchanges between customers, forbidden to withdraw the amounts claimed, and employees of banks, anxious to apply the new regulations, have hit the headlines.

The fear of a banking crisis is fueled, according to Ghobril, by rumors about possible cuts in retail deposits by banks, a scenario "unthinkable".

President Aoun discussed the country's economic situation on Saturday with the finance and economy ministers, the central bank governor and the head of the banking association.

In a statement issued after the meeting, it is ensured that bank deposits are safe and a call is made to the people not to panic.

The Central Bank and the Association of Banks have been asked to meet the needs of the depositories to keep the companies operating, he added.

In addition, prices on the market have been volatile for a few days.

According to the president of the Consumer Association, Zouheir Berro, the prices of some foods have increased over the past four days.

On Wednesday, the World Bank called on the authorities to form a new government as soon as possible, warning against a "deeper recession" in the event of stalemate.

09/11/2019 19:42:02 –
Beirut (AFP) –
© 2019 AFP

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