Every time a part of his old grey Mercedes breaks, 62-year-old Beirut cab driver Abed Omayraat faces a tough choice: go into debt to import an expensive car part, or raise fares for customers whose wallets are already drained by a severe economic crisis.
It’s a dilemma he says has become more acute in recent months as Lebanon’s government moved to increase tariffs on imported goods about ten-fold in a country that ships in more than 80% of what it consumes – including spare parts he needs.
“My tires are finished now, you can see they’re worn out. When it rains, I’m worried the car will slide,” Omayraat said. Changing them is necessary, “but I can’t afford it. ”
Lebanon’s economic meltdown, now in its fourth year, has seen the currency lose more than 95% of its value and left eight in 10 Lebanese poor, according to the United Nations.
With foreign currency coffers dwindling, the state has already lifted subsidies on fuel and most medication.