BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s caretaker Energy Minister Nada Boustani delayed a fuel tender by one week on Monday to allow for more competition and better prices after receiving offers from two companies.
The ministry is trialing a state tender for 150,000 tonnes of 95 octane gasoline in an effort to stave off supply shortages during Lebanon’s worst economic crisis in decades.
“We took the decision (to postpone) to guarantee more competition and get the best prices for the Lebanese state,” Boustani told a press conference.
The tender, which aims to supply about 10% of the country’s needs, is a first in import-dependent Lebanon, where private companies usually procure fuel.
Boustani has said private buyers recently sought to hike petrol pump prices to compensate for the rising cost of dollars on the parallel market, now the main source of hard currency.
Gas stations suspended a strike on Friday to hold talks with authorities, after shutting down across Lebanon and complaining of losses from buying dollars on the black market.
The country’s economic crisis has been long in the making and now come to a head. The Lebanese pound has slumped as much as 40% below the official dollar peg rate in recent days on the parallel market and a hard currency crunch has left many importers unable to bring in goods, forcing up prices.
Since protests erupted on Oct. 17 and with political gridlock over forming a new government, pressure has piled on the financial system. Banks have curbed U.S. dollar withdrawals and blocked nearly all transfers abroad.
(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Alison Williams, Kirsten Donovan)