The latent fuel shortage in Lebanon, in the midst of a political and economic crisis, is due to illegal trafficking with neighboring Syria, smugglers transferring supplies subsidized by the Lebanese authorities to this warring country, Raymond Ghajar said Thursday. The resigned Minister of Energy, who manages day-to-day affairs pending a new government, spoke to the press after a meeting with other Lebanese officials.
“The need for fuel on the Syrian market encourages smugglers to smuggle it into Syria to make very significant profits, given that it is subsidized by the Lebanese state for Lebanese citizens,” the minister continued.
A 20 liter can of subsidized fuel currently costs Lebanon around three dollars at the market exchange rate.
Fuel, half the price smuggled
In Syria, queues of up to six hours are forming in front of gas stations to get only a small amount of the precious liquid – and many gas stations remain closed. The government raised the price by more than 50% in March.
Many Syrians with the financial means therefore prefer to buy contraband fuel, sold for up to $ 25 per can, instead of waiting for hours to get only a small ration.
On the subject:
Lebanese officials have long blamed smuggling for the fuel shortage in their country, but never gave more details. The fuel “evaporates,” Raymond Ghajar said in July. “We want to know where it is going – there is contraband for sure, but we do not yet know in what quantities.”
For many Lebanese, with the historic depreciation of the currency, draconian banking restrictions and rampant inflation, their nation is now perhaps in a worse situation than the dark days of the civil war.