Protesters took to the streets in several Lebanese regions on Wednesday after a major surge in fuel prices, the latest in a series of recent increases.
The current hike is linked to a global rise in the prices of fuel and it marks a de facto end to state subsidies, pushing the cost of filling a vehicle’s tank to more than the monthly minimum wage in the poverty-stricken nation.
The prices of fuel had already soared in Lebanon after the central bank gradually lifted and eventually ended subsidization.
A common unit of measurement — 20 liters — of 95-octane gasoline was hiked by LBP 59,900 on Wednesday to reach LBP 302,700, or around $15 at the black market rate. This is around five times the price of 61,100 pounds set at the end of June, adding to the economic pain in a country where power cuts are common and basic goods including medicine have become scarce.
Diesel will meanwhile sell at LBP 270,700 per 20 liters and a cylinder of cooking gas will sell at LBP 229,600.
The revised price “marks a complete lifting of petroleum subsidies,” Fadi Abou Shaqra of the country’s fuel distributors’ association told AFP.
“The fuel price hike will cause the cost of services to also increase, especially transportation,” he added.
An energy ministry official said that the “latest petroleum prices were calculated on the basis of a currency exchange rate of 20,000 pounds to the dollar as per a central bank request.”
The price increases have mostly erased massive queues at gas pumps that clogged streets across the country during the summer when importers and gas station owners severely rationed supply.
In the southern city of Sidon, taxi drivers blocked the vital al-Nejmeh Square with their cars on Wednesday in protest at the new prices.
“The issue has become unbearable, especially that our livelihood mainly depends on this substance (gasoline),” the National News Agency quoted the drivers as saying.
The drivers also blocked the city’s seaside corniche and the road outside the al-Zaatari Mosque.
In the capital, protesters blocked the Saifi road in central Beirut in all directions. It was eventually reopened. The Corniche al-Mazraa and Sports City roads were also briefly blocked by protesters.
Outside the capital, retired servicemen blocked the Beirut-Dora highway outside the Forum de Beyrouth.
Demonstrators in the North meanwhile blocked the Bireh-Qoubayat road in Akkar, the Tripoli-Akkar highway in the Bab al-Tabbaneh area and the al-Nour Square in central Tripoli.