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Lebanon PM Warns Of “Social Explosion” After Fuel Price Hikes

Lebanon, which is in the midst of a severe economic crisis, is “days away” from a social explosion, the country’s caretaker prime minister warned on Tuesday, moments before renewed, violent protests broke out as people desperately search for essential medicines, gasoline and food.

“Lebanon is a few days away from the social explosion. The Lebanese are facing this dark fate alone,” caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a speech during a meeting with international organizations and ambassadors.

“I appeal through you to the kings, princes, presidents and leaders of brotherly and friendly countries, and I call upon the United Nations and all international bodies, the international community, and the global public opinion to help save the Lebanese from death and prevent the demise of Lebanon,” Diab added.

Earlier this month, the caretaker government in Lebanon effectively slashed fuel subsidies and raised the prices of gasoline and diesel in the Middle Eastern country which is reeling from an unprecedented economic crisis.

The Lebanese energy ministry announced a massive increase – by 35 percent – in fuel prices after slashing fuel subsidies amid a severe economic crisis and rallying global commodity prices.  

The move is expected to help government finances and stop the bleeding of foreign currency reserves. But it is a severe blow to consumers in Lebanon, who have been grappling with a plunge of the local currency and fuel shortages even before the gasoline and diesel price hikes.

The gasoline price hike is also threatening to fuel further social unrest in the country.

Last week, the Lebanese army was called to step in and rein in armed protests sparked by the rise in fuel prices.

According to the World Bank, the economic and financial crisis is likely to rank in the top 10, possibly top 3, most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century.

“In the face of colossal challenges, continuous policy inaction and the absence of a fully functioning executive authority threaten already dire socio-economic conditions and a fragile social peace with no clear turning point in the horizon,” the World Bank said in early June. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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