BEIRUT: The Arab League told Lebanese leaders on Thursday that it is ready to help the country out of its political and economic crisis.
Hossam Zaki, the league’s assistant secretary-general, delivered his message of solidarity after a meeting with President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The envoy’s comments came as widespread protests over government inefficiency and alleged corruption among the Lebanese leadership entered their 43rd day.
Zaki described Lebanon as “an important founding country in the Arab system” and said developments in the country “are of concern to Arabs as they have always had repercussions, some of which are regional.”
However, he warned that “the biggest burden of assistance lies on the Lebanese themselves, and external parties support attempts to find a solution to the crises.”
Zaki said: “Everyone knows that the movement of the street, with the acknowledgment of all Lebanese politicians and leaders, is right in its demands. We understand this, but the movement also comes at an economic cost that increases the seriousness of the situation.
“The issue of forming a government must be solved despite its difficulty because it is essential for Lebanon to avoid any negative impact on its economic situation and civil peace.”
Earlier Aoun claimed that insufficient aid had been provided to displaced Syrians in Lebanon, leaving the country to pick up the bill.
“So far, Lebanon has suffered losses of more than $25 billion, in addition to the unemployment that has afflicted Lebanese workers,” he said.
As the government crisis deepens, there is no sign that Aoun will set a date for parliamentary talks to assign a replacement for Hariri.
Hezbollah on Thursday backed a call by Berri for a caretaker government to be established. His parliamentary bloc believes that “constitutional obligations require the outgoing government to shoulder its legal responsibility toward citizens in light of rising prices and currency deterioration.”
Meanwhile, gas station operators in Lebanon went on strike after fuel importers refused to accept purchases in Lebanese currency.
Banks also refused to issue US dollars to customers.
Charles Jabbour, head of the Lebanese Forces’ communications and media department, told Arab News: “In light of the economic collapse in Lebanon, an economic and political alert is needed to face the crisis. This cannot be done through the government’s classic methods. It is not possible to form a national unity government or a political government. Lebanon needs a technocratic government that creates a positive shock abroad and generates revenue. Anything else would be stalling and taking the country to further collapse.”
Lebanon’s worsening economic situation was highlighted by Ibrahim Kanaan, the finance and budget committee chairman, who said after a meeting to discuss the 2020 draft budget that state revenues after the protests started “are almost nonexistent.”
“The draft budget prepared before the current crisis did not include any tax or add any fees. It includes a charge of $5,000 billion to the Banque du Liban (central bank) and the banking sector,” he said.
“The deficit is exacerbated in trade and payments balances due to suspension of overseas transfers and the erosion of deposits,” he added.