War was easier than this, says Lebanese entrepreneur hit by economic collapse

War was easier than this, says Lebanese entrepreneur hit by economic collapse
Suzanne Mouawad, a Lebanese entrepreneur, gestures as she speaks at a warehouse in Sin-el-fil, Lebanon. (REUTERS)
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Updated 21 April 2021

War was easier than this, says Lebanese entrepreneur hit by economic collapse

War was easier than this, says Lebanese entrepreneur hit by economic collapse
  • "I didn't let Lebanon down. It let me down and it hurt me," says entrepreneur
  • With retail clients cash-strapped her business has shrunk by three quarters in the economic crisis

BEIRUT: Suzanne Mouawad survived Lebanon’s civil war and built a successful advertising business in the hopeful days after the fighting ended.
Yet her country’s economic collapse, she says, is breaking her in a way that even missiles did not.
Mouawad, 56, comes from a well-to-do background and previously led a privileged life, running her agency as well as a family-owned paper manufacturing business, taking frequent holidays abroad and receiving rent from properties she owns.
Now, both the advertising and paper businesses have all but dried up, the tenants can no longer pay the rent, and she finds herself pondering the price of items in the supermarket during her weekly grocery shop.
“I didn’t let Lebanon down. It let me down and it hurt me,” she said.
With no end in sight to economic and financial paralysis, Mouawad feels a hopelessness that was not there during the war, which broke out when she was 12 and lasted 15 years.
“With war you get a couple of missiles falling one day and then the next day you pick up and you go back to school or back to work and you start producing and making money,” she said.
“Now the money is being held at the banks and there is no work.”
Stricken Lebanese banks, the biggest creditors to the bankrupt state, have locked customers out of their deposits under informal capital controls imposed without legislation since late 2019 when the country’s financial meltdown started.
Any savings people had in Lebanese pounds have lost most of their value, while dollar deposits are inaccessible.
The crisis is driving a brain drain, with professionals such as doctors, academics, designers and entrepreneurs emigrating in large numbers, which in turn has a knock-on effect on the local economy, further depressing investments and demand for services.
When Mouawad set up her advertising agency in 1992, the long war was drawing to a close and hopes were high for Lebanon’s future. A few years later, feeling optimistic, she sold a property she owned in Greece to re-invest back home.
But with her retail clients cash-strapped, her business has shrunk by about three quarters in the economic crisis. Mouawad herself is facing daily financial pressures.
“It’s become like an obsession with living conditions,” she said.
“All the time I’m thinking what will I do? Do I pay municipality fees or my mechanic fees or my electricity? I am under pressure and I never used to think like that before.”
Instead of a busy work schedule, she works barely an hour a day online. At the large warehouse where the paper business is based, activity has dwindled and deliveries of raw materials have spaced out.
“In the normal days we used to re-stock every four days, now this is all for three weeks,” she said, gesturing at some stacks of materials.
In spite of everything, she is not contemplating emigration. Having lived in the United States for six months in the 1990s and struggled to get used to it, she still wants to live in her home country.
“Everything I fought for is here and then I just leave it for someone else? No.”


Lebanese parliament confirms holding parliamentary elections on March 27

Lebanese parliament confirms holding parliamentary elections on March 27
Updated 40 sec ago

Lebanese parliament confirms holding parliamentary elections on March 27

Lebanese parliament confirms holding parliamentary elections on March 27
BEIRUT: The Lebanese parliament voted on Thursday to hold legislative elections on March 27, confirming an earlier vote last week that had been challenged by President Michel Aoun.
The body originally voted on Oct. 19 to hold the election at that time but President Aoun sent the law back for reconsideration on Friday.
The vote passed on Thursday by 77 MPs but some, including members of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), who have been against the earlier date, expressed concern around whether quorum was achieved for a second vote regarding the voting of Lebanese living abroad.
The elections were originally expected in May.
Gebran Bassil, FPM leader and son-in-law of Aoun, withdrew alongside his alliance from the session on the back of the dispute, ending the session for the day.
“We withdrew from the session because of a major constitutional violation,” he said after leaving.
The March 27 election date would give Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government only a few months to try to secure an IMF recovery plan amid a deepening economic meltdown.

Egypt’s supply minister says new price for bread ‘will take time’

Egypt’s supply minister says new price for bread ‘will take time’
Updated 28 October 2021

Egypt’s supply minister says new price for bread ‘will take time’

Egypt’s supply minister says new price for bread ‘will take time’
  • Subsidized loaf has been sold since for 5 Egyptian piasters

CAIRO: Egypt’s supply minister Ali Moselhy said on Thursday deciding a new price for subsidized bread “will take time.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in August said it was time to increase the price of the country’s subsidized bread, revisiting the issue for the first time since 1977 when then president Anwar Sadat reversed a price rise in the face of riots.

The subsidized loaf has been sold since then for 5 Egyptian piasters ($0.0032).

“The prices of commodities have been increasing since January, across vegetable oils markets, sugar and lately wheat,” Moselhy told a news conference in Cairo.

“The wheat price set by suppliers will take into account inflation,” he said, adding that the country’s strategic reserves of wheat were sufficient for five months and those of sugar until mid-February.


Death toll of Sudan anti-coup protesters rises to 7

Death toll of Sudan anti-coup protesters rises to 7
Updated 28 October 2021

Death toll of Sudan anti-coup protesters rises to 7

Death toll of Sudan anti-coup protesters rises to 7
  • Gen Abdel-Fattah Buran meanwhile fires at least six ambassadors

KHARTOUM: Seven protesters have been killed in Sudan since a military coup four days ago, a health official said Thursday, adding that other bodies had since arrived without giving an exact number.

Four protesters were already reported killed on Monday, hours after the military coup was announced.

“On Monday, morgues in Khartoum and Omdurman received the bodies of seven civilians,” Hisham Fagiri, head of the health ministry’s forensic authority, said. Some corpses showed wounds caused by “sharp tools,” he added.

Meanwhile, Gen Abdel-Fattah Buran fired at least six ambassadors, including the envoys to the US, the European Union and France, after they condemned the military’s takeover of the country, a military official said Thursday.

The diplomats pledged their support for the now-deposed government of Prime Minister Abddalla Hamdok.

Also fired by the strongman late Wednesday were the Sudanese ambassadors to Qatar, China and the UN mission in Geneva, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.

The state-run Sudan TV also reported the dismissals.

The ambassadors were fired two days after Burhan dissolved the transitional government and detained the prime minister, many government officials and political leaders in a coup condemned by the US and the West. The military allowed Hamdok to return home Tuesday after international pressure for his release.

Burhan said the military forces were compelled to take over because of quarrels between political parties that he claimed could lead to civil war. However, the coup also comes just weeks before Burhan would have had to hand over the leadership of the Sovereign Council, the ultimate decision-maker in Sudan, to a civilian, in a step that would reduce the military’s hold on the country. The council has military and civilian members. Hamdok’s government ran Sudan’s daily affairs.

The coup threatens to halt Sudan’s fitful transition to democracy, which began after the 2019 ouster of long-time ruler Omar Al-Bashir and his Islamist government in a popular uprising.

The takeover came after weeks of mounting tensions between military and civilian leaders over the course and pace of that process.

Ali bin Yahia, Sudan’s envoy in Geneva, was defiant after his dismissal.

“I will spare no efforts to reverse the situation, explain facts and resist the blackout imposed by coup officials on what is happened my beloved country,” he said in video comments posted online.

Nureldin Satti, the Sudanese envoy to the US, said Tuesday he was working with Sudanese diplomats in Brussels, Paris, Geneva and New York to “resist the military coup in support of the heroic struggle of the Sudanese people” to achieve the aims of the uprising against Al-Bashir.

In another development, Burhan fired Adlan Ibrahim, head of the country’s Civil Aviation Authority, according to the official. Adlan’s dismissal came after the resumption of flights in and out of Khartoum’s international airport resumed Wednesday.


Lebanon’s Beirut blast probe judge suspends hearing for former PM Diab – legal source

Lebanon’s Beirut blast probe judge suspends hearing for former PM Diab – legal source
Updated 28 October 2021

Lebanon’s Beirut blast probe judge suspends hearing for former PM Diab – legal source

Lebanon’s Beirut blast probe judge suspends hearing for former PM Diab – legal source
  • Prime Minister Hassan filed a suit over his prosecution on Wednesday

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Beirut blast probe judge Tarek Bitar suspended on Thursday the interrogation of for former Prime Minister Hassan Diab after Diab filed a suit, a legal source said.
The suit was filed by Diab over his prosecution by Bitar on Wednesday. Diab, who has been charged over the Aug. 4, 2020 blast that killed over 215 people, had already missed at least two interrogation sessions.
Bitar was officially notified of the legal suit arguing that he did not have the authority to interrogate the former prime minister which automatically forces him to suspend the session, the legal source said.
“The suspension of questioning relates only to Diab in this case,” the source told Reuters.
Judge Bitar has sought to question top politicians, including former ministers and members of parliament, since July but nearly all have spurned him with some raising legal complaints against him questioning his impartiality.
Bitar has in the past issued arrest warrants for ministers who failed to show up for interrogation, and Diab’s lawsuit was likely an 11th-hour attempt to prevent a similar scenario after his interrogation scheduled for Thursday.


Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes

Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes
Updated 27 October 2021

Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes

Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes
  • Decision came into effect Oct. 21 and stipulates that Moroccans must provide proof of vaccination to enter workplaces
  • The pass is also required to access indoor services such as restaurants, banks and travel

RABAT, Morocco: Demonstrators took to the streets in cities around Morocco on Wednesday, some clashing with police as they denounced the country’s decision to require coronavirus vaccination passes to be allowed to work and enter public venues.
The decision came into effect Oct. 21 and stipulates that Moroccans must provide proof of vaccination in order to enter their workplaces. In a statement, the government has said employers have “direct legal responsibility” to enforce the decision.
The pass is also required to access indoor services such as restaurants and banks as well as domestic and international travel.
The North African kingdom of 36 million people has Africa’s highest vaccination rate, with more than 50 percent of the population fully inoculated. Earlier this month, the government also started administering booster shots.
But the abrupt and unusually widespread vaccine requirements have also prompted opposition, and led to big crowds at vaccination centers as people rushed to get shots.
In the capital, Rabat, protesters gathered outside the parliament building and chanted slogans against the rule, arguing that it goes against fundamental human rights and civil liberties. Police formed a line to prevent the angry demonstrators from getting inside the legislature.
A few protesters clashed with police as they were pushed away down Mohammed V Avenue that leads to the parliament building.
Among protesters was Nabila Mounib, a member of parliament and the secretary general of the opposition Unified Socialist Party. She joined the protest after being barred from entering the parliament building for showing up without a vaccination pass.
Similar scenes unfolded in other Moroccan cities, with dozens of protesters taking to the streets in the country’s most populous city, Casablanca, as well as tourist hotspots of Marrakech and Agadir. They shouted “United against the pass!” as police pushed and swung batons at some of the demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them.