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Economic meltdown leads to roadblocks and protests in Lebanon

On the 29th of November, protestors across Lebanon set up roadblocks as the country’s currency declined to a historic low. Demonstrators in Beirut, Tripoli, Said and other cities blocked highways and intersections with their vehicles and put dumpsters and tires on fire. The Lebanese army was able to clear some of the closed intersections. However, protestors doused the highway with petrol so that cars could not drive through in Sports City just south of Beirut.

Rising inflation and lifted subsidies 
The protestors called on the government to control the Lebanese pound, which has dropped to an all time low. Over the past two years the Lebanese pound became useless, losing 90 percent of it’s value. While Lebanese citizens are struggling with the hyperinflation that the country is facing, the Lebanese authorities have been lifting subsidies of fuel and petrol, of which there is already a shortage. They also lifted subsidies on medicine, which led to an increase in prices of medication for chronic illnesses and mental health issues. The prices of bread have also been steadily rising. The rising prices have major consequences for the Lebanese citizens as it is estimated by the UN that 80 percent of Lebanon’s population is living below the poverty line.

On the 1st of December, after months of delay, the Lebanese government finally opened the registration for two cash assistance programs to help 700 thousand vulnerable families deal with the lifting of crucial subsidies. The launch of the programs had been delayed by technical and administrative problems. However, funding is also an issue. The ration card program, which is estimated at costing 556 million dollar, does not yet have a confirmed source of funding. Hector Hajjar, Lebanon’s Social Affairs minister, already said at the launch event of the program that ‘’these programs are not the solution’’ and that they are only meant to provide temporary relief.

Ongoing political deadlock      
As Lebanon’s economic situation keeps deteriorating, more and more Lebanese are living in poverty. At the same time the Lebanese government remains in a gridlock. The newly installed government led by Najib Mikati has not convened in over two months as it has been plagued by disagreements about the Beirut blast investigation. While some parties want to suspend the investigation, others want to push forward. This has resulted in yet another political deadlock. The Lebanese government has also been failing to implement financial and accountability reforms, which means that the country will not receive the financial aid from International Monetary Fund that it needs to revive its economy.  In the meantime, it has been the Lebanese citizens who are bearing the brunt of their government’s failure to take action.

Sources: Al Jazeera Al Jazeera  Al Arabiya France24 France24
Photo source: Flickr