Fuel hikes mean further hardship for Lebanese

The Lebanese government is raising gasoline prices by two-thirds, as it tries to ease crippling fuel shortages that have brought the country to a standstill.

But Sunday's (August 22) step will mean yet more hardship for Lebanese, more thanhalf of whom have been pushed into poverty over the past couple of years by a financial meltdown.

Which has wiped more than 90% off the value of the Lebanese pound.

Lebanon's fuel crisis has brought basic services to their knees, and queuing for hours at gas stations in a daily scramble for fuel has become part of life.

Hospitals, bakeries and many businesses are scaling back or shutting down as fuel runs dry.

The crisis worsened this month when the central bank said it could no longer finance fuel imports at heavily subsidised rates and would switch to market rates instead.

Price increases will take effect immediately, the government said in a statement.

The rise does not fully lift the exchange rate for pricing fuel to the exchange rate at which the central bank will finance its imports - so the state will have to fund the gap, for now.

Lebanon's Hezbollah, which is backed by Tehran, has arranged for a shipment of fuel from Iran to help ease the shortage in Lebanon.

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