Lebanon Erupts in Protest Again as Crisis Builds and Banks Fret

  • In World
  • 2020-01-14 17:29:04Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Lebanese protesters spilled back into the streets on Tuesday after a brief letup, blocking major highways as they denounced the lack of a functioning government at a time of deepening financial and economic crisis.

Demonstrators used burning tires and trash to build barriers in the capital, Beirut, and across the country, blaming politicians for deteriorating living conditions. They also rallied outside the central bank headquarters.

Rudderless since Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October as moves to raise fees and taxes triggered massive anti-government protests, Lebanon is gradually succumbing to its worst economic malaise in decades.

Its currency is plumbing new lows, while the union of bank employees warned that lenders are at risk of having to close if the executive remains paralyzed.

Rallies eased after the president appointed Hassan Diab to form a new government late last year. That appeared to give officials a chance to come up with a lineup that appeased the demands of protesters, who want an administration of experts capable of avoiding a financial meltdown. But disputes among politicians have delayed the process.

Diab, a former education minister, has backed the idea of a technocratic government while President Michel Aoun and his allies are insisting on naming ministers with a political background.

'Requires Time'

Other politicians, including Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, have demanded Hariri, who still leads a caretaker government while Diab waits in the wings, adopt new programs to address the crisis.

Aoun acknowledged Tuesday that obstacles had slowed the formation of a government that was expected to be announced last week.

"The lineup of the government must include capable people who are worthy of the people and parliament's confidence," Aoun said. "And that requires time."

A new government must secure a vote of confidence from parliament. Representatives of the International Support Group for Lebanon and the United Nations have said that a new cabinet must meet the demands of demonstrators.

Meanwhile, the union of bank employees warned that it would be forced to hold another strike if the impasse persisted. In November, bank employees walked off the job to protest their mistreatment by clients demanding the right withdraw more than their weekly cash limit.

Dollar Restrictions

"The situation is dangerous and cannot continue as such without an executive authority, and we might reach a point where we are forced to close," the MTV television channel cited the union as saying.

Read more: Lebanon Eyes Voluntary Swap of March Eurobond Into New Debt

Lebanese lenders have tightened restrictions on dollar withdrawals and transfers abroad since protests erupted against the government's decision to raise fees and taxes.

The central bank has also been rationing foreign currency and using its dwindling reserves to cover the import of essentials such as fuel and pharmaceuticals. The measures have forced traders to turn to money changers to meet their dollar needs, creating a parallel rate higher than the fixed exchange regime.

Violence has been reported on several occasions at lenders, with some people smashing ATM machines, storming into banks and holding sit-ins at branches.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dana Khraiche in Beirut at dkhraiche@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, Paul Abelsky, Mark Williams

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


More Related News

Guggenheim Says Market a
Guggenheim Says Market a 'Ponzi Scheme' That Must Collapse

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.Scott Minerd has a message for his fellows at Davos who are applauding rallying markets: Things aren't as good as they seem.The Guggenheim Partners investment chief likened the inflation of asset prices caused by the loose money policies of central banks to a "ponzi scheme" that eventually must collapse."We will reach a tipping point when investors will awake to the rising tide of defaults and downgrades," he wrote in a letter from the World Economic Forum meeting. "The timing is hard to predict, but this reminds me a lot of the lead-up to the 2001 and 2002 recession."Minerd's...

Trump Was Defending Record at Davos, Says Blackstone CEO Schwarzman
Trump Was Defending Record at Davos, Says Blackstone CEO Schwarzman

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.Blackstone Group Inc. chief executive officer Steve Schwarzman said Donald Trump was seeking to defend his economic record in Davos as the U.S. president faces the start of his impeachment trial."Here's somebody who is having the impeachment process start with a trial today," Schwarzman said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Tuesday at the Swiss resort. "This was a speech to basically say 'I think we need some perspective and let's look at what's happened under this administration. That is not just for domestic consumption, it's meant to be heard in the broader...

Mexico Murders Rise to Record in AMLO
Mexico Murders Rise to Record in AMLO's First Year in Office

(Bloomberg) -- Murders in Mexico rose to a new record in 2019, the first full year of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's presidency, posing a challenge to the popular leader to make good on a campaign promise of reducing violence.Slayings, often fueled by the nation's drug cartels, climbed to 34,582, compared with 33,743 a year earlier, according to data released by the national public security system. The 2.5% increase represents the least since homicides fell in 2014 and compared with increases of 17% to 28% in the previous three years."What's relevant is that homicides continue at an extremely high level, and the only change is the height of the wave," said Vidal Romero, a professor of...

Biden Tops Iowa Poll by Democratic Rural Group: Campaign Update
Biden Tops Iowa Poll by Democratic Rural Group: Campaign Update

(Bloomberg) -- A new Iowa poll has Joe Biden leading the Democratic presidential race in the first caucus state. The former vice president also placed as likely caucusgoers' top second choice, putting him in a strong position with just two weeks to go until voters begin to choose their nominee.Biden had the support of 24% of likely caucus-goers polled by Focus on Rural America, an Iowa group with Democratic ties that has been polling in the state since last year. Biden's backing in the survey has been roughly stable since the group's September poll, when he was at 25%. He is also the second choice of 24% of those surveyed, an important measure given that caucusgoers have the chance to...

Dershowitz Says Voters Should Judge President Trump
Dershowitz Says Voters Should Judge President Trump's Conduct

(Bloomberg) -- Alan Dershowitz, the former Harvard Law School professor, says he sees no grounds for the impeachment of President Donald Trump ahead of the Senate trial that begins on Tuesday."If the allegations are not impeachable, then this trial should result in an acquittal, regardless of whether the conduct is regarded as OK by you or by me or by voters," Dershowitz said on ABC's "This Week." "That's an issue for the voters."Dershowitz will not be the lead lawyer for Trump, but part of what he characterized Sunday as like "special teams" in American football."I'm the kicker, and I can kick the field goal that wins the game," Dershowitz said on CNN's "State of the Union."An initial...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: World