Traffic in Beirut has never been so fluid, but that’s not good news. Lebanon has been facing the most severe fuel shortage in its history for two months. The only streets still congested are those leading to an open gas station. Motorists have to spend hours, bumper to bumper, in the heat of the summer, to fill their tank with a few drops of unleaded.
“I got up at 5:30 am in the hope of being among the first served, says Salam Nasreddine, a university professor. I stood in line for an hour and a half and then suddenly we were told that the vats were empty. This country is a disaster! “
The gigantic fuel starvation facing Lebanon is one of the multiple sub-crises generated by the bankruptcy of the state, which defaulted on its sovereign debt in March 2020, against the backdrop of an economic cataclysm.
Short of money, the authorities are forced to cut back on spending and in particular to rationalize the very expensive system of subsidizing imports of strategic products, such as petroleum products, set up a few months earlier.
Power cut at night
The fuel supply, which runs the power plants and their auxiliary, the district generators, is also rationed. In Beirut, the power goes out all night, plunging the capital into almost total darkness, as well as three or four hours in the afternoon. Even paper is starting to run out in public administrations.
Because of this, the airport customs department and the General Security passport service were forced to suspend their activities for several hours last week. At the Lebanese University, the only public in the country, the D system is now required. “To save paper, we wrote the end-of-year tests with a font smaller than usual, on two columns instead of one and with narrowing the spaces”, says Salam Nasreddine, who teaches biology at this establishment.
With a government resigning since the explosion of the port of Beirut eleven months ago and a political class so far unable to form a replacement cabinet, Lebanon is approaching paralysis.
“I hope that this scenario will be avoided but, for the moment, all the indicators point in the direction of the beginning of the collapse of the State”, sighs Assem Abi Ali, a senior official at the Ministry of Social Affairs, where staff are lacking “Tea, coffee, paper, ink cartridges and even detergent for washing floors”.
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