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.


Pompeo offers help in call to Lebanon PM

Updated 11 min 10 sec ago

Pompeo offers help in call to Lebanon PM

  • US defense secretary meanwhile played down President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the explosion was a bomb
  • Pompeo did not describe how the United States would help Lebanon

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered assistance to Lebanon Wednesday after the massive explosion that leveled a huge section of Beirut and left at least 113 dead.
A day after the explosion in the Lebanese capital’s port, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper meanwhile played down President Donald Trump’s suggestion that it was a bomb, supporting instead Lebanese official accounts that it came from 2,750 tons of a volatile fertilizer ingredient, ammonium nitrate, stored in warehouse.
“I’m still getting information on what happened,” Esper told the Aspen Security Forum.
“Most believe that it was an accident as reported,” he said.
In a call with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Pompeo voiced “our steadfast commitment to assist the Lebanese people as they cope with the aftermath of this terrifying event,” a State Department statement said.
He “further stressed our solidarity with and support for the Lebanese people as they strive for the dignity, prosperity and security they deserve.”
The State Department only referred to a “horrible explosion,” despite Trump’s claim Tuesday that unnamed US generals indicated to him that “It was a bomb of some kind, yes.”
The Pentagon would not confirm Trump’s account.
Pompeo did not describe how the United States would help Lebanon, which was already in a deep economic crisis and seeking more than $20 billion in external funding.
The United States has been hesitant about supporting an aid package from the International Monetary Fund, insisting on reforms and the exclusion of Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian Lebanese militia and political party.