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Asharq Al-Awsat

Lebanon’s Living Crises Worsen, Long Queues Return after Elections

Lebanese people wait in front of a bakery in Beirut, Lebanon (EPA)

Lebanon’s living crises resurfaced only two days after the parliamentary elections were held. Long queues of people waiting in front of bakeries and gas stations returned, electricity supply declined due to fuel shortages, and the exchange rate of the dollar against the local currency rose to record levels not seen in five months.

In hopes of curbing the spike in exchange rates, Lebanon’s central bank released a statement confirming it will continue to allow banks to purchase dollars with no ceiling via the bank's Sayrafa exchange platform until the end of July.

Moreover, authorities rushed to intervene in securing fuel for power production plants.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday received a phone call from the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who congratulated him on the holding of the parliamentary elections. He also notified him that Iraq will continue to supply Lebanon with the fuel needed to produce electricity.

Nevertheless, Lebanon’s national electricity company said that it will cut its output further in the coming days, after burning through most of its fuel supplies during Sunday’s election.

EDL wrote that it “consumed its fuel reserves at a faster pace” during “the period of the parliamentary election”.

Lebanon was witnessing a host of renewed crises on Wednesday against the backdrop of a continuous surge of the dollar exchange rate on the black market.

For the first time in five months, the exchange rate hit LBP 31,000 to the dollar.

The hike confused Lebanon’s markets and increased speculation with some shops closing their doors in the suburbs of Beirut to prevent additional losses.

“Gasoline is available in the depots of the companies and in ships present at sea. We are not in a fuel crisis in Lebanon, because the issue is related to some delay in the completion of bank transactions aimed at providing the importing companies with dollars through the Sayrafa platform,” said a top member of the fuel station owners syndicate of Lebanon, George Brax.

“The issue should be solved quickly… Companies are distributing gasoline in limited quantities and some stations ran out due to the delay in gasoline deliveries,” Brax added.