Tuk-tuks turn into frequent sight in Lebanon’s streets amid financial disaster

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BEIRUT — Tuk-tuks, or three-wheeled rickshaws, have turn into an more and more frequent sight in a few of Lebanon’s streets, particularly in overcrowded neighborhoods, and the countryside as a brand new technique of transportation.

Amid the financial and monetary crises which have been gripping the nation because the finish of 2019, and the collapse of the native foreign money in addition to the explosion of costs, many Lebanese have been in search of a supply of earnings with slightly capital.

Many have opted to personal a tuk-tuk, which prices between $1,000 and $2,500 for transportation and work functions.

“I bought a tuk-tuk two years ago for $1,500. I use it to drive in and around the southern suburb of Beirut to collect and buy metal scrap from people and to transport goods. The tuk-tuk has become the only source of income for me and my family. It does not use gas as it has a rechargeable battery. Many people I know own tuk-tuks now,” Nasser al-Ahmad, a younger man in his 20s, married with a daughter, informed Al-Monitor.

Tuk-tuks are distinguished by their small measurement, becoming three passengers along with the motive force. It doesn’t devour gasoline and may be pushed by way of slim streets and neighborhoods that can not be accessed by automobiles. Tuk-tuks are eco-friendly since they’re electrically charged and are seen as the most effective means to move items in site visitors jams.

Tuk-tuks first emerged in Lebanon nearly 4 years in the past, when the primary autos appeared in widespread markets and poor neighborhoods in Beirut’s southern suburbs, in districts reminiscent of Ouzai, and Rehab, in addition to within the metropolis of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, within the Bab al-Tabbaneh and al-Haddadin neighborhoods, and the previous market. These rickshaws have been primarily used to move and ship items.

Today, a whole lot of tuk-tuks are seen roaming the streets in numerous Lebanese areas principally within the countryside, notably within the Bekaa Valley and Beirut’s suburbs. They are used as stalls to promote espresso and meals, and to move items. They even changed in some areas taxis given their low-cost transportation fares in comparison with common autos. Tuk-tuk drivers cost between 2,000 and three,000 Lebanese kilos ($1.30 and $2) for a experience, in comparison with 4,000 Lebanese kilos ($2.60) charged by taxi drivers. Others have been driving them as an alternative of their automotive.

The costs of public transportation have elevated prior to now 12 months because of the ongoing financial disaster. Meanwhile, costs of gasoline are rising day by day in Lebanon primarily because of the rise of world oil costs. But it’s also because of the truth that gasoline distribution corporations should cowl 10% of the costs of oil derivatives in laborious foreign money ({dollars}) accessible at the black market, the place the Lebanese pound has reached greater than 12,500 to the greenback. The central financial institution covers 90% of the value on the official charge of 1,515 kilos. The Lebanese have been struggling to refill their automobiles, as gasoline stations are rationing gas or closing down beneath the pretext of the shortage of portions accessible.

Kamal, who owns a tuk-tuk within the Bekaa Valley in japanese Lebanon, informed Al-Monitor, “Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing crisis, I was jobless until I bought a tuk-tuk, which is now my only source of income like many young men in the area.”

Bilal Abu Haikal, who owns, with two different companions, an organization for supply of products and transportation of people, informed Al-Monitor, “In the Bekaa Valley alone there are around 1,200 tuk-tuks of various shapes and types.”

He mentioned, “I established the company with my two partners in February 2020, headquartered in Barelias [in the Bekaa Valley]. Back then, tuk-tuks were very few and I did not expect their number to grow this fast. Our company currently has eight tuk-tuks, and we have expanded our business and we are now delivering not just in Barelias but also to neighboring towns such as Chtaura and Zahle.”

Abu Haikal noted, “The demand for tuk-tuks is a good thing at this time. Previously we used to charge 1,000 Lebanese pounds [$0.60] for a delivery ride. Today we charge between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds [$1.30 and $2] for transportation to nearby places or delivery of any goods. For farther places, the fares can go up, but they remain cheaper than the fares of a cab, a van and pickup truck given the high prices of fuel and living conditions, and other expenses for regular vehicles such as oil change and spare parts.”

He added, “Every rickshaw earns 90,000 pounds [$60] per day and an average net profit of 40,000 pounds [$26.60]. We give each tuk-tuk driver 30% of his daily income, and we pay a portion for repairs, spare parts and oil.”

Jihad Mitta, founder of Maita Motors, and one of the agents of the Italian company Piaggio in Lebanon, told Al-Monitor, “The demand for tuk-tuks has increased in the last seven months, as these rickshaws are being used as local taxis in neighborhoods and for restaurant deliveries.”

He famous, “I used to import the most expensive motorcycles, but at the end of 2020 I stopped doing that and started importing tuk-tuks from Piaggio. The price of a tuk-tuk ranges between $2,300 and $2,500 pounds paid in hard currency [dollars]. When the dollar trades below 12,000 pounds, the demand for tuk-tuks becomes higher as most customers pay with the local currency.”

The Lebanese are increasingly opting for tuk-tuks to transport goods or even for their personal transportation.

Ahmad, a young man in his 30s and a resident of Sad al-Bouchrieh area in Beirut, told Al-Monitor, “Tuk-tuks are faster and more affordable. They have been abundant in the past two years. You can’t go through Bourj Hammoud [neighborhood in Beirut] without seeing people driving tuk-tuks.”

He mentioned, “A year ago I transported car tires from Dekwaneh to Sin el-Fil. It cost me 20,000 pounds [$13.30]. If I wanted to transport them in a pickup truck, it would have cost me no less than 100,000 pounds [$66.60].”

Many believe that the increasing use of tuk-tuks reflects the declining living conditions in Lebanon and a new lifestyle for the Lebanese, especially since these vehicles are used in overcrowded and poor countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Many take a dim view of the country’s current situation.

Jean Tawil, an economist, believes that the tuk-tuk reflects the Lebanese resilience and the ability to adapt to a new reality and to resist the economic collapse.

“The Lebanese are currently resisting and trying to survive by finding alternatives for survival. For many their lifestyle has changed drastically. But that does not mean that they have to accept this new status quo. On the contrary, they are creating solutions to overcome this stage. The biggest [political] junction they are looking at is the upcoming parliamentary elections and chosing a new political power that is competent and has the will to make a change in the policy that led to this collapse,” Tawil informed Al-Monitor.

“Lebanon has become a poor country regardless of the tuk-tuks roaming its streets or not. It will only get poorer with the end of subsidies on basic goods. What matters now is to work toward building a new productive economy instead of our rentier one,” he concluded.