In March, while the value of the national currency was fluctuating wildly, the fuel sector demanded a more immediate mechanism for pricing gasoline
The head of the Association of Petroleum Importing Companies (APIC), Maroun Chammas, spoke of a mobile application that would display gas prices, which are updated several times daily by the Ministry of Energy.
The app — Lebanon Fuel Price — was launched Wednesday by caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayyad.
The app has two objectives: to allow buyers to control prices at any time and protect the distributors’ “legal margins,” which would prevent gas stations from closing down when the rates set by the ministry are devalued by the parallel market exchange rate.
Fayyad said the platform is “user friendly,” “transparent,” and “accessible to all,” adding that its services can be “quickly” updated in case of strong fluctuations in the parallel market exchange rate.
The app was developed with coordination between the Energy Ministry, TedMob — a Lebanese company founded and run by Mario Hachem — and Proft Isle, an American firm with Lebanese national Hady Lattouf serving as their chief technical officer.
Work began on Lebanon Fuel Price began in November 2022. The cost of developing the app, which was not disclosed, was reportedly financed by the APIC members.
“The operation did not cost the ministry anything,” Chammas told L’Orient-Le Jour.
Price list to continue to be published
Lebanon Fuel Price is now available on Apple’s App Store, and its Android version is expected to be launched in two days, according to Fayyad.
Its main interface displays the prices of 98-octane and 95-octane gasoline, gas cylinder and diesel sold at the gas stations. The main screen also displays the exchange rate used by the Energy Ministry in its pricing.
“Those who want to pay in lira will be able to check the current prices and those who want to pay in dollars will be able to check the applicable rate,” Fayyad said.
A tab redirects users to a PDF file including the ministry’s latest fuel price list, including dollarized prices used for diesel and fuel oil to supply industrial and power generators. It is the same list the ministry typically publishes on its website each time it is updated.
The only remaining problem is that the price updates are not automatic; prices displayed on the app are, for the moment, modified manually by the ministry’s staff.
“The principle is that the ministry reacts if the exchange rate fluctuates by more than LL1,000,” said Fayyad.
An Energy Ministry source, who declined to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the press, said prices can be changed every two hours on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and on Saturday mornings in the event of strong fluctuations in the lira’s value.
If the rate remains stable, as has been the case since the second week of April, the ministry will make only two updates per week — the first on Tuesday and the second on Friday. These are the days when prices are modified according to the average of the S&P Platts index, which measures the evolution of fuel prices over a period of time, the source explained.
The source added that the Energy Ministry ought to quickly organize itself to update displayed prices on the app outside business hours and on non-working days, until the process is automated.
“In the meantime, the price lists will continue to be published,” said the source.
Fayyad said the launch of this app marks a new step in the process of fully lifting fuel subsidies, which were applied during the crisis and cost “up to $300 million” per month.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.