Lebanon has scant chance of getting IMF aid, Geagea says

Geagea, whose Lebanese Forces party quit government early into the October protests, said Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government had not enacted any reforms. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanon has scant chance of getting IMF aid, Geagea says

  • The long-brewing financial crisis came to a head last October when big protests erupted against the corruption and bad governance of the sectarian elite
  • Geagea, whose Lebanese Forces party quit government early into the October protests, said Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government had not enacted any reforms

BEIRUT: Lebanon has scant chance of securing badly needed aid from the International Monetary Fund as the government fails to enact reforms demanded by donors to address its financial crisis, opposition politician Samir Geagea said on Friday.
“Unfortunately, (matters) are going from bad to worse,” he said. “It could, in my opinion, reach social unrest, and social violence.”
The long-brewing financial crisis, the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war, came to a head last October when big protests erupted against the corruption and bad governance of the sectarian elite.
The local currency has since more than halved in value and savers have been frozen out of bank accounts. Unemployment and inflation have soared in the import-dependent country.
Geagea heads the Lebanese Forces, the second-biggest Christian party in parliament, and opposes the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah and its Christian ally, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, which both back the government.
“The situation in Lebanon is not unsalvageable. But from the moment the crisis erupted on October 17, did you see any change in the management of the state?” said Geagea, who is politically aligned with the United States and its Gulf Arab allies.
“If the behavior at the top of the state remains the way it is, how can we save the country?”
Geagea, whose party quit government early into the October protests, said Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government had not enacted any reforms. With no alternative ways to secure aid, the government launched IMF negotiations in May. But Geagea said the chances of securing support were “very, very scant.”
“From the moment this government took office the whole world was waiting for reforms. So far, not one of the required reforms have happened,” Geagea said. “Nobody is going to give Lebanon any assistance before the state carries out the required reforms.”
The government has produced an economic recovery plan which sets out vast losses in the financial system and is serving as the basis for the IMF negotiations.
Geagea said the government had failed to fix two big problems: smuggling to Syria, which he blamed on Hezbollah, and a state-run electricity sector that bleeds up to $2 billion a year, which he blamed on the Free Patriotic Movement.
Hezbollah, which is heavily armed and listed as a terrorist group by the United States, has long denied it has anything to do with smuggling to Syria. Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, has said plans for fixing Lebanon’s electricity have been obstructed by others.


Dubai expands list of accredited testing centers for tourists

Updated 26 min 33 sec ago

Dubai expands list of accredited testing centers for tourists

  • The UAE earlier announced it would only accept tourists with COVID-19 negative certificates from a limited list of testing centers

DUBAI: Dubai has released an extended list of accredited testing facilities located around the globe to allow more tourists to visit the city, The National has reported.

The UAE earlier announced it would only accept tourists with COVID-19 negative certificates from a limited list of testing centers. The policy remains the same for other emirates.

The announcement comes as Dubai restarts its tourism industry, which was hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic that forced international borders to shut down.

The policy applies to all tourists except those coming from a list of countries where travelers are required to take a second screening at UAE airports.

For the negative certificate to be considered valid, travelers should take the test not more than 96 hours before departure.

Meanwhile, the Indian ambassador to the UAE said both countries were extending a temporary travel corridor agreement until Aug. 31, according to an interview published by national daily Khaleej Times.

Pavan Kapoor said bookings can be made from Aug. 5, with around 700 flights to be operated throughout the month.

Both countries earlier initiated a two-week travel corridor where around 25,000 people were able fly to India.

But Kapoor said resuming normal travel “is not yet possible” because of local bureaucracies and the fact that India has over 1.4 million infections.