Lebanon’s economy spirals, essential services close

Grocery stores, pharmacies and fuel stations have closed across Lebanon as the value of the lira plunges.

A closed sign on a shop window.
The fall in the Lebanese lira’s value has sparked widespread civil unrest and protests across the nation. Picture: Tim Mossholder/Pexels

CAPE TOWN, March 30 (ANA) – The fall in the Lebanese lira’s value has sparked widespread civil unrest and protests across the nation.

In early March, the Lebanese currency’s value dramatically dropped to 10,000 lira to the dollar.

The Lebanese government retaliated by banning currency exchange rate websites and smartphone apps and closing down many exchange shops that traded at unofficial rates.

Grocery stores closed on Wednesday and bakeries warned that they would have to close as well.

On Thursday, pharmacies closed their doors and displayed neon strike signs, the economy’s latest segment to demonstrate discontent.

As Lebanon continues on a downwards spiral, according to Arab News, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri said of the economy: “If it sinks, everyone will drown. The time has come to wake up because in the end, if the ship sinks, no one will survive.”

The public’s anger has escalated as fuel stations ran out of supplies on Thursday and Friday and fuel has become harder to find.

“We are denied our basic rights, such as security, education, water and electricity,” a protester on Beirut’s Martyr Square said to DW’s correspondent Razan Salman.

Lebanon’s energy ministry issued a notice in early January stating that the government’s money would be exhausted at the end of the month if no new source of financing was provided. On Monday, the legislature authorised US$200 million to keep the lights on a while longer.

“This should be enough for electricity for around two months or two and a half,” Cesar Abi Khalil, MP and former energy minister, said.

However, concerns of the black market controlling the economy were raised.

“Everything is now priced based on the black market… It is very opaque, and so the currency can suffer from heavy fluctuations,” Lebanese economist Sami Zogheib said to Al Jazeera.

Since August last year, the country has been rudderless after the cabinet of caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab resigned in the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion.

Due to the political deadlock, Saad Hariri, who served as president until 2020, has been unable to shape a new cabinet.

“A rescue government must be formed, and the advance should be suspended until a government is formed,” MP Hadi Abul Hassan of the Progressive Socialist Party said.

– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Yaron Blecher

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