Fuel sector strike shuts Lebanese gas stations as cash dollars run dry

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A gas station closes during a protest agains tight supply of dollars in Beirut, Lebanon September 18, 2019. (Reuters)
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A gas station closes during a protest agains tight supply of dollars in Beirut, Lebanon September 18, 2019. (Reuters)
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A gas station closes during a protest agains tight supply of dollars in Beirut, Lebanon September 18, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 19 September 2019

Fuel sector strike shuts Lebanese gas stations as cash dollars run dry

  • Gas station owners said the walkout was to highlight their “material losses resulting from the dollar exchange rate”
  • On some forecourts, station owners held up pump hoses in protest over losses resulting from a national shortage of cash dollars

BEIRUT: Motorists in Lebanon on Wednesday found the majority of gas stations closed due to a one-day strike by fuel sector companies and workers.
On some forecourts, station owners held up pump hoses in protest over losses resulting from a national shortage of cash dollars.
Fuel in Lebanon is normally purchased from import companies and suppliers in US dollars and sold in Lebanese pounds. But the country’s banks have been holding back from handing out large sums of the currency in hard cash.
The warning strike involved import, distribution and tanker companies as well as gas stations selling petroleum products, and according to the National News Agency (NNA) received 97 percent support.
Gas station owners said the walkout was to highlight their “material losses resulting from the dollar exchange rate.”
In the absence of dollars in large quantities in Lebanese banks, many fuel dealers have had to turn to exchange houses which sell dollars at rates of up to 1,550 Lebanese pounds, above the official exchange rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds.
Economist Jassem Ajaka blamed the situation on international sanctions imposed on Hezbollah. He told Arab News: “The problem is not a dollar shortage in Lebanon, but the fact that it is being used as cash money.”
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Wednesday that “the siege and economic sanctions imposed on Lebanon do not affect certain persons or category, nor do they affect the resistance, as some believe, but they impact all the Lebanese people.”
Ajaka added: “In France, for instance, when the amount exceeds $500 (SR1,875), they request receiving it by bank transfer or an ATM card. In Lebanon, there is no restraint, and people prefer to use cash money. As a result of the increased sanctions, a certain development forced banks to abstain from giving large amounts of cash money.
“Lebanon has a surplus of the hard currency, and the Central Bank declared a week ago that it has deposits of $1.4 billion. Thus, there is no problem in the dollar matter. People should get accustomed to bank transfers.”
Lebanese MP Bilal Abdallah objected to the strike, arguing on social media that it was “unacceptable that Lebanese citizens are victims of the dollar game between oil companies, gas stations and banks.”
He tweeted: “With whom and against whom is the strike? Your companies and stations reap profits from citizens, whom you force to wait and whom you give anxiety. This is shameful. Where is the State and the bodies concerned with the protection of peoples’ rights?”


Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

An Iranian army soldier walks through a temporary hospital in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
Updated 30 March 2020

Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

  • Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible”

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani has warned that “the new way of life” in Iran was likely to be prolonged, as its declared death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 2,640.
Iran is one of the countries worst-hit by the virus, which first originated in China.
Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January.
At his daily news briefing, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 123 more people in Iran had died from the virus in the past 24 hours.
He reported 2,901 new cases of COVID-19 infection, bringing the overall number of officially confirmed cases to 38,309.
According to the official, 12,391 of those hospitalized have recovered and 3,467 are in “critical” condition.
“We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting.
“The new way of life we have adopted” is to everyone’s benefit, he said, adding that “these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time.”
After weeks of refraining from imposing lockdown or quarantine measures, Tehran decided Wednesday to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.
Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible.” Schools and universities in some provinces were closed in late February and the measure was later extended to the whole country.
After Rouhani’s warning, the reopening of schools following this year’s new year holidays of March 19 to April 3 appears unlikely.

FASTFACT

Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January

On a positive note, Rouhani said he had been told by top health experts and doctors that “in some provinces we have passed the peak (of the epidemic) and are on a downward trajectory.”
Several Iranian government officials and notable figures have been infected by the new coronavirus, some of whom have died.
The most recent case of infection was Mohammed-Reza Khatami, brother of former president Mohammad Khatami and an ex-deputy speaker of parliament.
He is currently hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister who tested positive for the virus in late February, has returned to public life and appeared on state television to emphasize safety precautions.