UAE pledges $27bn in stimulus as Middle East works to slow coronavirus

Abu Dhabi shut down its amusement parks and museums through the end of the month, including Louvre Abu Dhabi. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 March 2020

UAE pledges $27bn in stimulus as Middle East works to slow coronavirus

  • The money will go toward supporting the country’s banks and regulatory limits on loans will be eased
  • Abu Dhabi shut down its amusement parks and museums through the end of the month, including Louvre Abu Dhabi.

DUBAI: The central bank of the United Arab Emirates, home to the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, on Sunday announced a $27 billion stimulus package to deal with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The money will go toward supporting the country’s banks, and regulatory limits on loans will be eased.
Nations across the Middle East have pledged to stimulate their economies as they weather the global pandemic, which has led to widespread school closures, the cancelation of sporting and other events, as well as sweeping lockdowns in some hard-hit areas.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Most people suffer only mild to moderate symptoms and recover in a matter of weeks. But the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by individuals with no visible symptoms.
The virus has spread to more than 100 countries and infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed more than 5,700. Iran is home to the biggest outbreak in the Middle East, with nearly 13,000 cases and more than 600 deaths.
More than 70,000 people worldwide have recovered after being infected.
Countries across the Middle East have imposed sweeping travel restrictions, canceled public events and in some cases called on non-essential businesses to close for the coming weeks.
Dubai Parks & Resorts announced it would be closed through the end of the month.
Abu Dhabi shut down its amusement parks and museums through the end of the month, including Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Kuwait meanwhile shut down malls, salons and barbershops to slow the spread of the virus. Authorities allowed coffee shops to remain open, but said no more than five customers can wait in line at a time and must be a meter apart from each other.
Saudi Arabia separately announced its own $13 billion stimulus plan.


First split opens up in new Lebanon government

Updated 17 min 16 sec ago

First split opens up in new Lebanon government

  • Foreign minister quits over lack of reform, warns of ‘failed state’

BEIRUT: The first major split opened up in Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s barely six-month-old government on Monday when his foreign minister resigned.
Nassif Hitti said there was “an absence of a real will to achieve the comprehensive and structural reform demanded by the national and international community,” and Lebanon was “sliding toward becoming a failed state.”
Hitti was swiftly replaced by Charbel Wehbe, diplomatic adviser to President Michel Aoun and a career diplomat. Wehbe, 67, is a former secretary general of the ministry, and is close to Aoun and his influential son-in-law Gebran Bassil, a former foreign minister 
Lebanon is enduring an economic crash, with the value of its currency plunging. The government has appealed to the International Monetary Fund for billions of dollars in aid, but there has been little progress on the reforms demanded in return for a bailout.
Diab’s administration has also been attacked by its opponents for weak decision-making and depending on dominant forces in the cabinet, most notably Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement. As he resigned, Hitti launched a veiled attack on them.
“I participated in this government on the basis that I have one employer called Lebanon, and I found many employers and conflicting interests in my country, who did not agree about the interest of the Lebanese people and its rescue,” he said.
Hitti was said to be upset by the government’s poor performance, and because it had not carried out any of the pledges it made to the Lebanese people or the international community to root out corruption.
He was also uncomfortable at the growing diplomatic role given to security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim in communicating with some countries at the expense of the foreign ministry. He viewed this encroachment as depleting his “professional and diplomatic credit,” he said.
Government opponents praised Hitti’s courage. “The political forces holding on to the actual power will make Lebanon a failed state,” said Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces Party. “Hitti’s testimony came after a performance that lasted more than six months, and Lebanon’s situation will not settle as long as Hezbollah, the FPM and their allies have authority in Lebanon.”
Marwan Hamade, a member of the Lebanese parliament, said Hitti had “risen up” against the government to join the people and the revolution again. Another MP, Henri Helo, said: “We hope that more follow suit, which paves the way for a new government that meets the Lebanese people’s ambitions.”