BEIRUT: As Lebanese prepare to celebrate Christmas, this year’s festivities are mixed with disappointment and fear that 2018 will pass without the formation of a government.
The Maronite Patriarchate’s media spokesman Walid Ghayyad told Arab News that Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi has urged Lebanese politicians in his sermons to avoid further delays to the formation of a government.
Housewife Nawal told Arab News: “We usually dedicate a big budget to buy presents during the festive season, but this year we agreed to buy gifts only for the children. The economic and political situation makes us reluctant to spend money, and we’ve decided to save our money for a rainy day.”
Toni Eid, chairman of the Beirut Traders Association, told Arab News: “The political crisis in Lebanon has had a negative impact on the economic situation. Crises aren’t new to Lebanon, but this is the first time that Lebanese feel this much distress.”
He said: “There’s a general feeling that this is a serious crisis. People are waiting for solutions, and no decisions are being made for the future. People’s spending has decreased.”
He added: “One of the indicators of economic decline is offering sales in excess of 50 percent. This doesn’t usually happen during the festive season.”
Eid said: “The middle class has declined, while the rich have maintained their place and the poor have become poorer.”
Economic reporter Danielle Daher said she noticed during her tours of markets a decline in consumer spending.
“Designer shops that sell expensive brands are almost empty,” she told Arab News, adding that families are buying “clothes instead of toys for children because the latter are expensive.”
Al-Rahi said in his Sunday sermon: “Human dignity requires the existence of social conditions that enable people to secure a dignified life. Unfortunately, political officials fail to realize this duty. They’ve been stalling the formation of the government for seven months, creating new problems every time a solution is found. In doing so, they inflict great damage on the state, causing serious financial losses and violating the dignity of the people by condemning them to more poverty, deprivation and anxiety. Do they realize that they’re committing a great crime against the state and the people? Aren’t they ashamed?”
He stressed the importance of forming a government comprising people “with recognized competence and neutrality who meet the requirements of the state and the people.”