Fears growing over who will pay for Lebanon’s bankruptcy

Special Fears growing over who will pay for Lebanon’s bankruptcy
A man heads to the Lebanese central bank. (AP/File)
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Updated 04 April 2022

Fears growing over who will pay for Lebanon’s bankruptcy

Fears growing over who will pay for Lebanon’s bankruptcy
  • Deputy PM admits state and central bank are out of money
  • Senior World Bank official warns of ‘dire economic situation’

BEIRUT: Lebanon and its central bank are bankrupt, according to the country’s deputy prime minister.

The “state is bankrupt … so is the Banque du Liban,” Saadeh Al-Shami said on Monday, adding that “the loss has occurred, and we will seek to reduce the losses for the people.”

He said the losses would be attributed to the state, the central bank, and other lenders and depositors.

“We cannot live in a state of denial as we cannot allow withdrawals for all people who have deposits in banks,” he said.

Al-Shami’s statement came as a delegation from the International Monetary Fund is in talks with the Lebanese government on a financial recovery plan.

Economic groups in Lebanon have objected to a plan presented to the IMF that clears the state of liability and leaves depositors and banks to foot the bill. It also turns state debt into heavy losses for the Lebanese economy and society.

After a meeting with the head of the IMF mission, Ernesto Ramirez-Rigo, the groups said that depositors’ money had been squandered due to the fixing of the exchange rate, interest rate differences, and the state’s expenditure.

They objected to “easy solutions, by adopting an accounting approach that eliminates losses without any special considerations.”

They also stressed the need to preserve the rights of depositors and the continuity of the banking system.

Saroj Kumar Jha, director of the Middle East department at the World Bank, said on Monday that the “economic situation in Lebanon is dire. The size of the economic downturn has reached about 60 percent since 2021.”

He was speaking at the fourth meeting of Lebanon’s Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

Jha also warned that if “the national reform program is not implemented well, this will constitute a greater contraction of the economy and will lead to a further deterioration of economic and social conditions.”

He stressed the urgent need for “a reform plan that includes a financial program, debt repayment, restructuring the financial and banking sector and developing social protection systems.”

Amid the economic crisis, the process of registering competing electoral lists for the May 15 parliamentary elections closed at midnight on Monday.

More than 77 lists were registered and political observers are waiting to see if parliament will approve the capital control bill before the upcoming polls.

Meanwhile, the ramifications of the economic crisis are being felt far and wide. Lebanese diplomats overseas did not receive their salaries in dollars last month, while the Lebanese pound has continued to fall in value.

The Free Professions Syndicates held a solidarity rally with the professors of Lebanese University in front of the National Museum in Beirut.

One of the academics told Arab News that a university professor’s salary was now only $150, despite public education teachers getting $180, backed by foreign aid.

Similarly, the university’s budget had fallen to about $17 million, from $240 million in the past, the person said.

As a result of strikes by professors and other employees over the loss of social and health insurance due to the collapse of the national currency and dollarization of the hospital sector, educational activity at the university has been halted for the past three weeks.

The professors also complained about the blatant interference of politicians in appointing the university’s deans according to sectarian and political quotas.

Another manifestation of the state’s bankruptcy are the mounting piles of trash in many areas around Beirut as a result of a strike by workers at the City Blue company.

The industrial action followed a delay to wage payments after the Bank of Lebanon stopped paying the company’s dues last year.

The wife of one of the strikers said on social media that the workers were unable to provide for their families.

Several municipalities in southern Beirut have sought help from Hezbollah to remove trash from the streets.


Detained Tunisia ex-PM Jebali hospitalized: lawyer

 Hamadi Jebali. (AFP)
Hamadi Jebali. (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2022

Detained Tunisia ex-PM Jebali hospitalized: lawyer

 Hamadi Jebali. (AFP)
  • Jebali, a former senior official in the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party that is a key rival of President Kais Saied, was detained in relation to transfers of large sums of money from overseas to a charity in Tunisia

TUNIS: Tunisia’s former prime minister Hamadi Jebali, on hunger strike after being arrested earlier this week on money-laundering allegations, was rushed to intensive care on Saturday, his lawyer said.
“His condition rapidly deteriorated because he is on an intense hunger strike and he didn’t take his medicine” for cardiovascular conditions and diabetes, lawyer Zied Taher told AFP.
Police had not delivered the drugs in question to Jebali’s cell despite prosecutors allowing the family to take them to the police station, he added.
Jebali, a former senior official in the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party that is a key rival of President Kais Saied, was detained in relation to transfers of large sums of money from overseas to a charity in Tunisia.
Ennahdha has dismissed the allegations and said the arrest was part of a campaign of settling political scores.
Saied in July last year sacked the government and suspended the Ennahdha-dominated parliament in moves opponents have called a coup in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings.
He later dissolved the assembly, extended his powers over the judiciary and moved to change the constitution.
Many Tunisians have backed Saied’s moves against a system seen as corrupt and self-serving.
Jebali is not the first senior Ennahdha figure to be detained since Saied’s power grab — former justice minister Noureddine Bhiri was also held under house arrest for two months before being released without charge.


Erdogan signals no progress on Sweden’s NATO bid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party’s parliamentary group meeting in Ankara
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party’s parliamentary group meeting in Ankara
Updated 26 June 2022

Erdogan signals no progress on Sweden’s NATO bid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party’s parliamentary group meeting in Ankara
  • Erdogan told Stoltenberg that ‘Sweden and Finland should take concrete and sincere steps’ against outlawed Kurdish militants

ISTANBUL; Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled on Saturday that no progress had been made in Sweden’s bid to join NATO, urging Stockholm to take “concrete actions” to meet Ankara’s concerns, his office said.
In a phone call with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Erdogan reiterated that “Sweden should take steps regarding such fundamental matters as combating terrorism,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
Turkey “wanted to see binding commitments on these issues together with concrete and clear action,” he added.
Finland and Sweden discussed their stalled NATO bids with Turkey in Brussels on Monday, but Ankara dampened hopes that their dispute will be resolved before an alliance summit next week. Turkish officials said Ankara does not view the summit as a final deadline for resolving Ankara’s objections.
Ankara has accused Finland and in particular Sweden of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish militants whose decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Erdogan told Andersson that Sweden “should make concrete changes in its attitude” toward the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and its Syrian affiliates, the presidency said.
“In this regard no tangible action aimed at addressing Turkey’s concerns was seen to have been taken by Sweden,” it added.
The Turkish leader also voiced expectations that Sweden would lift an arms embargo against Turkey that Stockholm imposed in 2019 over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.
He also said he hopes that restrictions on Turkey’s defense industry would be lifted, and that Sweden will extradite several people Ankara has accused of involvement in terrorism.
The phone call comes after Erdogan discussed the two countries’ bid with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.


Israel human rights group targets West Bank settlements expansion

Israeli security forces deploy as settlers try to take control of a water spring in the Palestinian village of Qaryut
Israeli security forces deploy as settlers try to take control of a water spring in the Palestinian village of Qaryut
Updated 26 June 2022

Israel human rights group targets West Bank settlements expansion

Israeli security forces deploy as settlers try to take control of a water spring in the Palestinian village of Qaryut
  • Peace Now movement: Building of new units has risen by 62% compared with Netanyahu leadership

RAMALLAH: Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian land in the West Bank has increased dramatically under the recently dissolved coalition government, a report by an Israeli human rights organization reveals.

In a survey published on June 25, the Israeli Peace Now movement said that since the current government took office in June 2021, the building of new settlement units in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, has risen by 62 percent compared with the previous Benjamin Netanyahu leadership.

Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on June 20 announced a deal to dissolve the parliament, appointing Lapid as prime minister of an interim government, and triggering early elections.

The decision follows “exhausting attempts to stabilize the coalition,” a joint statement said.

FASTFACT

Settlement activity across the West Bank flourished during former US President Donald Trump’s time in power, even though it was considered illegal under international law.

The Peace Now report shows that despite its commitment to a status quo regarding the occupation, a year after the government took office, it not only continued the policies of previous governments, but also stepped up the settlement project and the oppression of Palestinians.

The report indicated a 26 percent increase in planning housing units in settlements — 7,292 compared with an annual average of 5,784 housing units under the Netanyahu government.

Six new outposts and a new settlement in Hebron, the first in 40 years, were among the government’s approvals.

The Bennett-Lapid government deepened the expulsion policy of Palestinians and their restriction to the constrained enclaves in Areas A and B.

As of June 6, the Israeli civil administration had demolished 639 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, causing 604 people to lose their homes.

In East Jerusalem, 189 structures were demolished and 450 Palestinians left homeless.

According to the Peace Now report, only 10 building permits were granted for Palestinians, compared with 1,448 housing units whose construction began in the settlements in the second half of 2021 and 2,526 in the entire year.

Under the Bennett-Lapid government, 86 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank alone compared with 41 under the Netanyahu governments.

Khalil Al-Tafkaji, a Palestinian expert specializing in settlement affairs and director of the map department at the Arab Studies Association in Jerusalem, told Arab News: “The Israeli right is in agreement on two things: Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and it was a fierce competition between the two governments as to who accelerates the increase in settlements.”

The Israeli settlements program in the Palestinian territories has been “green lighted” by all Israeli governments as they seek to raise the number of settlers to 1 million in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by 2025, Al-Tafkaji said.

“All Israeli parties, without exception, do not think of giving the Palestinians a state, but rather see them living in cantons surrounded by settlements and their streets on all sides,” he said.

“The settlers are now leading an intifada of physical attacks against the Palestinians and their property in the West Bank because of their high number and sense of absolute power.”

The Bennett-Lapid government declared 22,000 dunams of land as a nature reserve in the Nachal Og area, south of Jericho. It continued the trend of the Netanyahu government in changing the reality in the Temple Mount (the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound) and the erosion of the status quo.

The supporters of a two-state solution in the Israeli government have failed to stop these actions and left the policies regarding the occupation to those who support the settlement project.

Settlement activity across the West Bank flourished during former US President Donald Trump’s time in power, even though it was considered illegal under international law and threatened the two-state solution.

Palestinians see it as one of the main obstacles to establishing an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

 


Jordanian university nursing student killed on campus laid to rest

Jordanian police stand guard in downtown Amman, Jordan. (REUTERS)
Jordanian police stand guard in downtown Amman, Jordan. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 June 2022

Jordanian university nursing student killed on campus laid to rest

Jordanian police stand guard in downtown Amman, Jordan. (REUTERS)
  • Social media users have launched hashtags demanding justice for Iman Ersheid and the harshest punishment for her killer

AMMAN: Jordanian university student Iman Ersheid, who was reportedly gunned down on campus, was laid to rest on Friday in the northern city of Irbid.

Ersheid, 18, was killed by an unidentified assailant on Thursday. Police said the suspect was wearing a cap.

She was a nursing student at the Applied Science University in Amman’s Shafa Badran neighborhood.

Police spokesperson Lt. Col. Amer Sartawi said criminal investigation personnel had identified the shooting suspect, who was still at large.

The police raided his house on Friday but he was not there. “But the search is underway for the suspect.”

Iman Ersheid

He said official statements would be issued, and he urged people to adhere to the gag order issued by the attorney general banning the publication of any news about the case.

Police said the victim was shot over five times by the suspect, who fled the scene after committing the crime.

An eyewitness, who is a colleague of Ersheid, spoke on condition of anonymity and said the assailant had entered the university from its main gate brandishing a weapon.

She told Arab News that Ersheid was shot right after she left the exam hall at around 10 a.m.

Asked how a man could enter the university with a gun, the eyewitness replied: “I don’t know because the norm is that only students can enter and are sometimes asked to show their student ID to security. The university is now investigating the issue.”

She said the suspect fled the campus firing shots into the air. “I didn’t see that but was told about it by those who were present at the crime scene.”

The victim’s father said his last contact with his daughter was on the phone at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

“My daughter told me that she finished her exam and I told her to wait at the university until her brother comes and picks her up. He was on the way with the car to her,” the father told journalists.

But, two hours later, the father said he received a call from the police saying his daughter was being treated at a hospital.

Social media users launched a hashtag demanding justice for Ersheid and the severest punishment for the killer. The hashtag - “capital punishment for Iman’s killer” - was trending on social media.

The university offered condolences to her family in a Facebook post.

Zakaria Mubasher, the university’s student affairs dean, said the suspected killer was not a university student.

Mubasher told the government-owned Al-Mamlaka TV: “The security personnel at the university first thought the gunshots were firecrackers, but later realized that a student was shot.”

He said there were 800 surveillance cameras installed in different places in the university and that cameras had captured images of the killer. “The footage is now in the hands of the police.”

Mubasher added that the university’s security personnel had attempted to stop the suspect, but “he fired several rounds in the air so that he could escape, which he did.”

Following the incident, a group of MPs from the National Guidance Committee said they would meet with the government to discuss arm possession laws in Jordan.

Sociologist Kamal Mirza said the shooting must only be examined from a “criminal perspective.”

“Campus shooting and shooting incidents, in general, have not reached the alarming phenomenon level. Taking into consideration the low level of such crimes in Jordan, sociology should still not be used as an analytical tool.”

Mirza told Arab News that from a “statistical point of view” murder as a crime in Jordan was not a social practice yet, but a behavior.

“Maybe psychology could be applied to analyzing this crime. It is possible that the killer suffers from behavioral disorders.”

According to the latest official statistics, the country's crime rate decreased by 5.39 percent in 2021.

The Public Security Directorate report said 20,991 crimes were committed in Jordan in 2021, 1,196 down from the 22,187 registered in 2020.

There were 5,237 murders recorded in 2021.


Rain douses Cyprus wildfire that burned thousands of acres

Rain douses Cyprus wildfire that burned thousands of acres
Updated 25 June 2022

Rain douses Cyprus wildfire that burned thousands of acres

Rain douses Cyprus wildfire that burned thousands of acres
  • Aircraft from both sides of Cyprus, as well as British military and Israeli personnel, had responded to calls for help to fight the fire
  • The fire has been extinguished to a large extent with the effect of the rain that fell last night

KANTARA, Cyprus: In the end, it was Mother Nature that extinguished a wildfire that scorched thousands of acres and forced the evacuation of villages in the north of divided Cyprus, officials said Saturday.
Aircraft from both sides of Cyprus, as well as British military and Israeli personnel, had responded to calls for help to fight the fire which began Tuesday in the Kantara area of the Kyrenia mountain range.
“The fire... has been extinguished to a large extent with the effect of the rain that fell last night,” said Unal Ustel, prime minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Ankara.
“We have survived a great disaster.”
There have been no reports of casualties but Turkish Cypriot authorities said more than 6,500 acres (2,600 hectares) had been burned.
Helicopters were still dropping water onto the burning ridge lines on Friday, before intense rains fell overnight.
Forestry department head Cemil Karzaoglu said the fire was completely under control and mopping up operations were continuing where smoke was still visible.
Ustel expressed gratitude to “the British Base Areas, Israel and the Greek Cypriot administration for their support in extinguishing the fire from the air.”
The United Nations peacekeeping force said it coordinated the firefighting response.
According to Cypriot media reports earlier, at least four villages were evacuated.
Emergency services from Israel and Britain’s Sovereign Base Areas on the eastern Mediterranean island often help fight Cyprus’s frequent wildfires.
In July last year, blazes that broke out in the Larnaca and Limassol districts claimed the lives of four Egyptian farmworkers and destroyed more than 12,000 acres.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish forces occupied the northern part of the island in response to a military coup sponsored by the junta in power in Greece at the time.