January 2023. There is a jostle at the Lebanese Syrian border crossing at Masnaa. A long queue of Syrian taxies is waiting for clearance. In a second queue are Lebanese vehicles bringing travellers to Syria.
The Syrian taxies are lying low on the road, despite having only a few passengers. Their tanks are filled to the brim, and there is a gas bottle in the trunk. Only taxies are allowed to transport a full tank and a gas cylinder from Lebanon to Syria. Due to the lack of passengers, transporting petrol in their own tank and a gas bottle has become a good source of income for Syrian taxi drivers. Once home, the petrol is transferred from the tank into 10 liter bottles or canisters and then sold on the black market, i.e., on the side of the road or in the neighbourhood, for around 85,000 Syrian pounds (SYP, about $12.80).
The official exchange rate for 1 US dollar is currently 4500 SYP. The common and tolerated black market rate for 1 US dollar is 6500 SYP. Twelve years ago, at the beginning of the war, 1 US dollar cost 50 SYP.
Read more in Swiss Standpoint: E_International_Leukefeld_Hunger-and-poverty-in-Syria