Lebanon’s cash woes are ringing louder - GulfToday

Lebanon’s cash woes are ringing louder

Lebanon Currency

A man counts US dollar banknotes next to Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon. Reuters

Lebanon’s acute financial morass is hurtling the country towards perdition. The choice is now up to its leaders to decide whether to come to a workable solution or entertain more chaos and insecurity.

Fuel paucity has thrown essential services out of gear and caused serpentine queues at petrol stations that have either little or virtually no petrol to sell.

The rush for fuel has led to scenes of rank disorder which the country’s security personnel have tried hard to stem.

What’s worse, the country’s medical situation is quite grim, with critical medicines running out of stock.

A water crisis is also rearing its ugly head, which has only added to problems. On top of that, the lack of a proper government is skewing plans for a smooth functioning of the affairs of state.

This happens even as there is squabbling over seats in a new dispensation. The group designated as terrorists by the United States says it only wants to ease the shortages.

The economic impact has been nothing short of disastrous. About six million are on the breadline and the value of the currency has been cut by 90 per cent.

The dwindling fuel reserves are making the people become all the more desperate. Petrol is being sold in plastic bottles at whopping prices.

The central bank’s governor, Riad Salameh, declared that nobody was running Lebanon. Many of the nation’s leaders were at one time warlords in the 1975-90 civil war.

President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati are yet to reach an accord to replace the regime that quit after the Beirut port blast a year ago.

Lebanon’s government agreed to pay tens of thousands of poor families cash assistance in US dollars from a World Bank loan as the country’s economic crisis deepens.

In Lebanon, a lot of things have become extremely dear as the currency has lost 90 per cent of its value. Things are really in a dire situation. So much so that some basic healthy food is being given the go-by because there is no wherewithal. According to a report, one official says that even the defence forces such as the army cannot afford the requisite amount of meat and chicken.

Truncated budgets reportedly compelled the military to wipe out meat from its menu last year. Lebanese Vegans Social Hub, which promotes veganism, is helping the needy with 100 vegan meals.

The financial mess is affecting the studies at school too. Rights groups are alarmed over what they see is an “education catastrophe”, with more than a million children in Lebanon out of school since the country’s COVID-19 outbreak began in February last year.

As for the others, they might as well be forgotten. This is because a financial downturn has seen poverty rates climb 78 per cent of the population.

The return to school could mean more problems for the school authorities. Many schools have threatened to shut because of extremely high operating costs. The inflation is only making things worse.

Digital or distance education is not making things any better. Power cuts, internet outages and the economic crisis have made online instruction quite expensive to afford. Many families just cannot afford food, forget laptops and mobile phone devices.

In an attempt to streamline things, Majzoub said public schools would open to in-person attendance four days a week, with students taking classes online for the fifth day.

Classrooms will gradually reopen starting on September 27. The decision covers both private and public schools and technical learning centres. All are to reopen by October 4 at the latest, he added. The squabbling parties have to reach an accord soon. Or else there will be more chaos and disaster in store, plunging the nation’s hopeless condition to new abyssal and abysmal depths.

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