SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 17 October 2021, Sunday |

Gasoline queues are likely to return?

The Central Bank decided to extend the work of Circular 151, which fixed the exchange rate of bank withdrawals at 3,900 LBP, until 31/01/2022 to give the government time to present its reform project.

The Central Bank also amended the Circular 158 to allow depositors to benefit from Circulars 158 and 151 simultaneously in different banks, which improves the average exchange rate they benefit from and increase the purchasing power.

Gasoline queues will remain subject to the Central Bank’s decisions, which controls solely the market currently by limiting the credits opened for the import of gasoline, unlike diesel, which has become liberalized and imported directly by the private sector.

So, the pace of opening credits will determine the quantities of gasoline available in the market, which will cause shortages sometimes, if the imported quantities do not meet the local consumption and the quantities required for smuggling. Since Syria will continue to need Lebanon’s fuel, no matter how high its prices, the gasoline crisis and the queues will continue because the Central Bank will not meet, with its own dollars, the needs of the two countries from fuel.

If a decision is taken to liberalize the gasoline market and hand it over entirely to the oil importing companies, and If importers want to secure dollars for imports knowing that they have bank accounts abroad that can be used for this purpose, there is a fear that this will cause additional pressure on the dollar exchange rate in the parallel market. Although the private sector is able to import quantities of gasoline that would meet local consumption, but this matter will drain its dollars in favor of securing the needs of neighboring countries.

Gasoline queues have diminished in the past days, due to its high price that reduced demand, especially at the end of the month when most employees spent their salaries. The gasoline crisis is likely to return again after a week when the currently available stock ends, and if the Central Bank delays in giving approvals to open new credits.

The Economic and Social Council held the first dialogue meeting on “Social Justice – Social Reality and the Lebanese Immigration Crisis,” with the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, who spoke about four points:

The first of these is social justice, that is, ensuring a decent standard of life for all and their basic social rights.

Second, the social reality which is in its worst meltdown. Third, the migration of human resources and the increasing number of Palestinian refugees and displaced Syrians. Fourth, Al-Rahi stressed that the social needs, basic rights of citizens, the exercise of social justice and the limitation of immigration cannot be met without a strong economy.

Al Rahi wished the government to take into consideration the plan of the Economic and Social Council to achieve economic revival.