Lebanese Indulge In Fuel Smuggling Across Syrian Border Amidst Acute Shortage At Home
Roads full of cars queuing up to get their petrol tanks filled in Lebanon- this is a new definition of poverty. The population is reeling under pressure from a dysfunctional government that has not been able to keep it afloat, despite huge financial backing from World Bank or other country sources.
The new agitation troubling the fragile peace in the country is fuel smuggling, as Lebanese smugglers filled up their cars with goods and fuel to go and sell it at double the price in Syria. They were stopped at the border, where they broke into an unjustified commotion and resorted to physical violence and vandalism too.
Gasoline smugglers blocked the Masnaa crossing after security forces moved to prevent them from driving through the legitimate crossing. The security sources have shared how these smugglers are willing to pay up bribes to pass into Syrian territory. When prevented to do so at the Lebanese side the smugglers have been protesting.
In the midst of fuel shortage in Lebanon itself, customs authorities are determined to prevent the smuggling of gasoline and are now contemplating strictly enforcing permit requirements for vehicles going into Syria. But protesters on the international highway are demanding the process be applied to everyone crossing into Syria or be scrapped.
Hours of queuing outside gasoline stations means just a few litres to a car for subsidized gasoline. Currently, a 20-liter canister of gasoline is selling for 44,000 Lebanese pounds ($29). The Lebanese pound is terribly depreciated in the trade market as of now. The black-market rate of gasoline is between 70,000 to 1,00,000 Lebanese pounds. Rumours have it that fuel might not be subsidized anymore in Lebanon market and people might have to go with the running market price of 2,00,000 Lebanese pounds. Banqua du Liban (BDL) has now refused to finance import of gasoline, diesel, medicine and fuel for electricity.
The presidency of the caretaker government however has been talking about getting a subsidy card clearance from the parliament vote. In a formal statement, it has said that, it “is awaiting parliamentary approval on the subsidy card to determine the appropriate formula, and is working to mitigate the repercussions of BDL’s decision. We do not agree to BDL’s decision, not without the subsidy card.”