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Lebanon’s president approves loan for fuel to generate electricity

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has approved an exceptional loan of up to 300 billion Lebanese pounds ($200 million) on Monday for the state electricity company to import fuel for generation before supplies run out, an official statement said.

Lebanon is mired in a financial crisis, caused by a huge debt built up since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, leaving the country struggling to find enough foreign exchange to pay for fuel as well as other basic imports.

The president approved the loan just after a meeting last week which took place between caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and top economic policy makers to remove hurdles that had delayed disbursing the funds, the official statement said.

Parliament approved the loan in March but a committee then reviewed its legality.

The Lebanese have long gotten accustomed to living with regular power cuts that run for a few hours a day in the capital and much longer hours in other areas due the state power plants being unable to meet demand. Most people rely on private generators.

Lebanon usually keeps enough fuel for about two months or so, as it costs too much to hold strategic reserves for longer.

The economic meltdown has fuelled unrest, locked depositors out of their bank accounts and hammered the currency, which has lost around 90% of its value against the dollar.

The exchange rate for the loan to buy fuel is calculated at the official rate of 1,500 pounds to the dollar, although the pound rate on the unofficial market has collapsed to about 13,000 to the dollar since the crisis erupted in late 2019.