BEIRUT, October 21 (Reuters) – Taxi drivers blocked roads in Beirut on Thursday in protest against soaring oil prices that are worsening the misery of Lebanese already victims of a devastating economic collapse.
Gasoline is now about 10 times more expensive at the pump than it was just a few months ago, as the central bank stopped providing dollars at heavily subsidized exchange rates for imports of fuel.
Several dozen taxi drivers parked their cars in Martyrs Square in the middle of Beirut and blocked a nearby main road in protest against the latest hike – a 25% increase announced on Wednesday.
“How are we supposed to live? We drive and find no passengers on the road,” said Hanna Ibrahim, a taxi driver. When passengers can be found, arguments often arise about the fare, she said. “They make us cry and we make them cry.”
The Lebanese pound has lost around 90% of its value over the past two years, and three quarters of Lebanese now live in poverty.
The price of a shared taxi ride, a vital form of transportation for many in a country without railways or other public transportation, was 1,500 pounds, or $ 1, before the crash. Today it can go up to 30,000 pounds.
“We can’t take it anymore, before when we earn 20,000 Lebanese pounds, we bring home bread and cheese but not anymore, we are losing now,” said Marwan Awawd, another taxi driver.
In a meeting Thursday, taxi drivers told Energy Minister Walid Fayad that fuel subsidies should have been maintained until a government-planned cash assistance program rolled out, and l ‘urged not to change fuel prices until a solution has been found. found to help people.
In the meeting broadcast by Al Jadeed TV, Fayad replied, “I feel your pain and want to find a solution, but let me tell you something, so I am not making empty promises.”
“If, God forbid, the dollar exchange rate increases (…) and I do not change the price of oil, there will be a problem: oil importers will not bring oil”, said he declared.
Written by Tom Perry, edited by William Maclean
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