The state-owned Électricité Du Liban (EDL) is trying to dollarize its tariffs — a first for the public sector, if implemented — an EDL spokesperson confirmed to L'Orient Today.
Previously, state-owned telecommunication companies Alfa and Touch, which are managed by private enterprises, dollarized their prices. However, payment in dollars is not compulsory but can be paid in lira according to a de facto market rate.
However, the procedure for EDL is different because it is a strictly state-owned company and is pushing for compulsory payment in dollars.
An EDL spokesperson told L'Orient Today that the company is demanding the change "because Banque Du Liban (BDL) is not agreeing to transfer us our money in dollars, and we want them in dollars so that we can buy fuel or do maintenance. Everything we want to buy is in dollars."
"We are doing this so that we are not strangled by BDL if they want to transfer our money or not," the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson also claimed that BDL owes EDL around LL3.3 trillion (around $37 million, according to the parallel market rate). A BDL spokesperson could not confirm that number.
Deputy BDL governor Wassim Mansouri has stated previously that he would not spend any foreign reserves without a law from Parliament.
The EDL spokesperson told L'Orient Today that the state-owned company sent its proposal to the committee on legislation and consultancy at the Ministry of Justice. The committee will then give its legal opinion on whether the move only requires a ministerial decree or a law approved by Parliament.
A spokesperson at the Justice Ministry told L'Orient Today that the committee indeed received EDL's proposal but has yet to give its opinion on the matter.
Karim Daher, a Lebanese lawyer specializing in finances, told L'Orient Today that the consumer protection code "does not specify whether the display [of prices] in national currency must be exclusive, or whether it may be combined with the display of another foreign currency."
"In addition, Article 25 of the same [code] requires the professional to provide the consumer with an invoice which includes, among other compulsory information, the total price in Lebanese lira," Daher added.
Parliament has barely met since the departure of former president Michel Aoun in October. Many MPs refuse to attend legislative sessions in accordance with the Constitution, which states that Parliament must act strictly as an electoral body until a new president is elected.