Lebanese minister target of demonstrators’ wrath

The value of the Lebanese Pound tumbles to new lows against the dollar.
Saturday 27/06/2020
A money exchange vendor counts Lebanese pound banknotes at a currency exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon June 17, 2020. (REUTERS)
A money exchange vendor counts Lebanese pound banknotes at a currency exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon June 17, 2020. (REUTERS)

BEIRUT – Protesters in Lebanon stormed the headquarters of the Ministry of Social Affairs on Friday, demanding to see Ramzi Moucharafieh, who was not present in the building at the time.

Protesters held the ministry responsible for the deterioration of their living conditions, accusing Moucharafieh of dereliction of duties towards citizens.

Security forces intervened to disperse the crowd and tried to persuade protesters to move to the entrance to the ministry.

Several cities in Lebanon have witnessed protests against deteriorating living standards and the fall in the value of Lebanese Pound.

Demonstrators cut off the roads for hours in ​​Barja, south of Beirut, as they called their movement a “revolution of anger”.  Some complained their situation has become so dire that they could not provide food for their children.

Several protesters also cut the road to Taalabaya in the Beqaa Valley (Eastern Lebanon).

In Baalbek, some protesters stood amid a heavy security cordon, in front of the Palace of Justice headquarters in the city, demanding “that the corrupt be held accountable and that looted funds be recovered”.

The value of the Lebanese Pound has tumbled to new lows against the Dollar on Friday in the parallel market where it has now lost around 80 percent of its value since October.

President of the Syndicate of Importers of Foodstuffs in Lebanon (IFBC) and board member of the Beirut Traders Association (BTA), Hani Bohsali, said food importers have only been able to secure 20 percent of their foreign currency needs at licensed dealers during the last two weeks, which left them dependent on the parallel market for the rest of their hard currency needs.

He added: “Food imports are being reduced. It cannot continue this way. If you can’t find dollars to import, you don’t have any guarantee you will be able to have the funds to pay for shipments”.

The pound has continued to slump despite President Michel Aoun’s pledge on June 16 that the central bank would supply the currency market with dollars to prop it up.

On Friday, Aoun said that “the current situation has increased the percentage of poverty and overburdened the Lebanese. But our first concern now lies with achieving the food sufficiency of the Lebanese people in addition to security”.

Economic, financial, and social indicators continue to show a massive deterioration in Lebanon.

The unemployment rate is expected to exceed 40 percent, while poverty will affect 50 percent of the Lebanese population.

Protester in Lebanon have for months accused the ruling political class of lack of real will to carry out reforms.

The government, led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, recently appointed four central bank vice governors after the posts were left vacant for over a year. However, the protestors did not consider this move as the beginning of a solution to the crisis, accusing Diab of forgetting his official pledges to combat corruption.

The inability by politicians to carry out reforms hinders international assistance often conditioned on progress introducing reforms.