Lebanon bank staff body threatens strike over assaults, insults

Students take part in an anti-government protest in Sidon, Lebanon. (AFP/File)
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Updated 03 January 2020

Lebanon bank staff body threatens strike over assaults, insults

  • Banks have cracked down on the amount of dollars that can be taken out or transferred abroad

BEIRUT: A Lebanese body representing bank workers has threatened to go on strike over the insults and assaults branch staff are being subjected to as the country’s financial woes continue.

A liquidity crunch has hit the Middle East country, where months of protests and a political impasse have deepened its economic crisis. 

Banks have cracked down on the amount of dollars that can be taken out or transferred abroad. The Association of Banks in Lebanon calls these measures “exceptional and temporary to ensure the continuity of the banking sector’s work and preserve the rights of depositors.”

But citizens are furious and there has even been violence in bank branches, leading the Council of the Federation of Syndicates of Bank Employees to threaten industrial action. 

“The attacks are organized by people who claim to represent the civil movement (that started on Oct. 17) with the aim to distort the image of the banking sector, which is a clear violation of the reputation of the Lebanese state that is responsible for protecting all citizens from any threat against their safety and security.”    

Some protesters stormed a bank in the city of Sidon to claim people’s money. They clashed with security forces and a number of people were injured. The Red Cross took them to hospital for treatment. There was a similar scene in a bank in the city of Nabatieh, where a bank employee tried to shut the door but protesters broke in and there was a fistfight. 

Some protestors also organized a sit-in outside the Port of Beirut, considering it one of the “main sources of waste and corruption” in the country. Others rallied in front of the Port of Tripoli and chanted slogans demanding to “stop corruption and cleanse the port from those who are corrupt.”

The crisis is still awaiting a political solution for confidence to be restored, notably the formation of a new government.

On Wednesday night, activists on social media called for civil disobedience and road closures, in protest at what they considered “adopting the traditional quotas to form the government and naming ministers who belong to political parties.” 

Moustafa Allouch, a member of the Future Movement’s political bureau, said there were several obstacles hindering the formation of the government and not just the issue of Sunni representation.

“The Sunni issue lies in the fact that the prime minister-designate was named without the approval of prominent political figures,” he told Arab News. “The Future Movement is not concerned with invitations to close roads and can no longer influence the decisions of people in the streets.”

Full steam ahead for Egypt-Sudan rail network

Updated 27 October 2020

Full steam ahead for Egypt-Sudan rail network

  • Gateway project will open continent to new trade and jobs, says Cairo minister

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Transport Kamel Al-Wazir has discussed plans with Sudanese counterpart Hashem bin Auf to build a cross-border railway network between the two neighboring countries.

The pair discussed terms of a joint cooperation document for railway connectivity, which aims to provide funding for an economic, social and environmental feasibility study for the project. The planned network will extend from the Egyptian city of Aswan across the southern border to Sudan’s Wadi Halfa in its first phase.

Funding will be organized through cooperation between Egypt, Sudan and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.

Al-Wazir signed the document and delivered it to the Sudanese ambassador in Cairo for signing by the country’s transport minister.

The two sides also discussed a number of road projects, including a prospective land road between Egypt and Chad through Sudan. 

The project aims to be a gateway for trade between the two countries, Chad and West Africa. 

The Cairo-Sudan-Cape Town road, which passes through nine African countries, was also mentioned by the ministers. Al-Wazir also said that Egypt is building a Cairo-Arqin road corridor inside its borders, which passes through the governorates of Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Luxor and Aswan, and then then extends to the Egyptian border, passing through the Toshka junctions to Arqin, parallel with Sudan.

He added that the new project is important in achieving land connectivity and increasing trade with African countries, as well as serving Egyptian and African citizens, opening new job opportunities and encouraging comprehensive development. The Sudanese side also requested cooperation with Egypt in maritime transport and the training of maritime cadres at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport.

Al-Wazir said that Egypt will provide its capabilities to train the workers, whether through the Arab Academy, Egyptian ports or the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety.

The two sides also agreed to hold a joint meeting to follow up on the progress of other cooperation projects and to discuss the development of the Nile Valley Authority for River Navigation.

Al-Wazir’s team said that the coming period should include urgent plans to develop the authority, train river workers and provide support through specialized technical cadres.