UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Despite fears that the economic crisis will worsen, the Lebanese hold on to protests against the ruling political class. Lebanese are flocking to the country’s supermarkets in anticipation of a sharp rise in commodity prices on the back of the unprecedented popular movement that began on October 17.
The protests caused a general paralysis, including a two-week closure of banks.
Protests calling for the departure of Lebanon’s political class continue as political talks are held to reach an agreement to form a new government. Lebanon is in the midst of a severe economic crisis that has prompted citizens to rush to supermarkets, especially in Beirut, to buy basic foodstuffs for fear of interruption or anticipation of a sharp rise in prices, amid an unprecedented wave of protests.
Consumers flock to meat and cheese refrigerators and the fruit and vegetable department and fill the corridors for cereals and cans, while other corridors of luxuries such as alcoholic beverages and desserts are empty.
Lebanon’s current political stalemate is likely to increase pressure on an economy that has suffered its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, amid protests against the political establishment many Lebanese see as corrupt and inefficient.
Since October 17, Lebanon has witnessed an unprecedented popular movement demanding the departure of the political class, which began against the backdrop of living demands. It has paralyzed the country, including the closure of banks for two weeks. After the reopening, it became clear that the liquidity crisis that began before the popular movement and was one of the reasons that angered the Lebanese, has become more severe.
For the first time in more than two decades, a parallel exchange market emerged during which the dollar is sometimes sold for up to 1,800 lira, while the official rate of the lira remains at 1507.
Lebanese banks took measures to curb the sale of the dollar and this week imposed additional restrictions after a two-week suspension due to popular protests.
Citizens can no longer get the dollar, which is the currency of circulation in Lebanon, from the ATM, while they are required to make some payments of loans and bills in dollars.
Fear and tension in the Lebanese street and stocks of drugs enough for one month and the government stresses “no need to panic”
It all caused a panic. A large number of Lebanese have poured into food stores over the past two days, while gas stations have warned that their gasoline stocks are running out.
The President of the Hospitals Association announced that the current stock of medicines and medical supplies is enough for only one month as a result of the strict measures taken by the Lebanese banks to limit the sale of the dollar necessary for purchase from importers.
Although some Lebanese said they feel no fear and buy their belongings naturally, Girin Seif, a food hall official at a commercial establishment in the locality of Furn el-Chebbak, east of the capital, said the movement was “more than usual and like holiday days”.
“This is all because of the fear that basic materials will be cut off. People buy bread, flour, sugar, cereals, cans and household items like incest, and do away with everything that is considered a luxury.”
The popular movement caused the resignation of the government, but President Michel Aoun did not start with new consultations to start forming a new government. The ruling class is clearly seeking to salvage its gains and retain its positions, while protesters cling to the demand for an independent government. Consequently, there are no signs yet of steps leading to solutions.
Officials have tried to reassure public fears. Aoun, financial officials and bankers, including Governor of the Banque du Liban Riad Salameh, held a meeting after which they declared that there was no need to panic, stressing that they had taken measures to facilitate the depositors’ finances.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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