Street protests feared in Lebanon due to price rise, depreciation of currency, unemployment

Special Street protests feared in Lebanon due to price rise, depreciation of currency, unemployment
A demonstrator, her face painted as DC comic book and film character ‘The Joker,’ takes part in a protest in Martyr’s Square, Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 19, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 25 May 2022

Street protests feared in Lebanon due to price rise, depreciation of currency, unemployment

Street protests feared in Lebanon due to price rise, depreciation of currency, unemployment
  • Caretaker Communications Minister Johnny Korm: The decision to increase the tariffs for telecom and Internet services was caused by problems with suppliers and employees
  • The worsening economic crisis and increase in telecom and internet fees could bring people back onto the streets

BEIRUT: Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, director-general of the Lebanese General Security, who is currently in the US on an official visit, has expressed concerns over “the social situation imploding as a result of the economic situation in Lebanon,” hoping that security would not be affected.

A security source told Arab News: “The situation is very delicate. The prices of goods are doubling, and some merchants are now requesting to be paid in US dollars, as the local currency continues to depreciate uncontrollably. Not everyone has dollar bills. How can people survive? At some point, we are bound to face a dangerous scenario.

“The security services are once again sounding the alarm regarding the miserable social situation of the soldiers. How it is acceptable for on-duty soldiers to only eat grains and canned goods every day?”

On Wednesday, Lebanon’s telecommunications company Ogero doubled and tripled the prices for some of its services. It announced packages intended for students and those with limited income, provided that the price amendments come into effect starting July.

Before going into caretaker mode, the Cabinet held a final session and raised the tariffs of prepaid mobile services.

Caretaker Communications Minister Johnny Korm said: “The decision to increase the tariffs for telecom and Internet services was caused by problems with suppliers and employees. There is no way for any sector to continue working based on the 1,500 LBP/USD rate in these circumstances.

“The sector would have collapsed, so we halved the expenses from $560 million to $255 million, and we also took several steps to reduce the burden. The sector’s income decreased to 22 percent, and we have become one of the cheapest telecom sectors in the world, as the average rate of subscription revenue is $1.88 per month, compared to $11.5 in Jordan, for instance. With the tariff increase, the rate becomes $7, with exceptions for people with limited income, for whom there will be packages of $4.5 and $7, taking into account the people with special needs, security officers and students.

“When we raise the tariff in July, the first bill we collect will be on Aug. 8. I understand and feel the pain of the citizens, but the tariff must be changed.”

In October 2019, the Cabinet headed by former Premier Saad Hariri discussed a proposal to impose a 20-cent fee on voice calls via applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook and FaceTime to avoid the imminent economic collapse after Lebanon’s dollar reserves rapidly decreased.

This proposal was the initial spark that caused one of the largest popular protests in Lebanon when protesters blocked roads with burning tires and tried to storm the headquarters of the government and parliament. The protests spread over two years, as economic conditions worsened.

The government sought to cancel its proposal hours after it was announced, but the collapse occurred. Lebanon was unable to pay its external and internal debts, and the central bank imposed measures on bank transfers. Protesters accused the ruling authorities of corruption, while the enthusiasm of Arab and foreign countries to help Lebanon waned due to the growing influence of Tehran-backed Hezbollah.

Will the worsening economic crisis and increase in telecom and internet fees bring people back to the streets?

Telecom engineer Abbas Qanso, who works with an internet service provider, ruled out the possibility of returning to the streets. “There will be protesters against the price hike, but many will accept it, just as they did with the rise in the prices of fuel, medicine and even bread.”

Official data shows that the unemployment rate in Lebanon increased to 29.6 percent from 11.4 percent in 2018-2019, which indicates that nearly a third of the active labor force was unemployed by January 2022. The percentage of unemployed women reached 32.7 compared to 28.4 for men, while the youth unemployment rate was 47.8 percent, twice the adult rate of 25.6 percent.

Economist Walid Bou Suleiman said: “The Lebanese pound will depreciate even more amid the uncertainty on the political scene.

“Nothing can curb the local currency’s depreciation except a positive shock that comes in the form of a quick formation of the government, but there are no signs of that. It’s a downhill journey from here.

“Since the government entered into caretaker mode, it is no longer entitled to take decisions. A new government needs to be formed as soon as possible, and recovery plans need to be implemented immediately, otherwise an ominous fate awaits Lebanon with the depletion of the central bank’s dollars, which will impede imports.”


UAE residents feel tremors caused by 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Iran

UAE residents feel tremors caused by 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Iran
Updated 6 sec ago

UAE residents feel tremors caused by 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Iran

UAE residents feel tremors caused by 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Iran

DUBAI: UAE residents reported feeling tremors caused by 6.3 magnitude earthquake that jolted South Iran on Saturday at 3:24 am, according to the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) on Saturday.

NCM added that the quake, which claimed the lives of five people in Iran, quake did not have any impact on the UAE.

State news agency IRNA said a magnitude 6.3 and 6.1 earthquakes followed the 6.1 quake that flattened the village of Sayeh Khosh near Iran’s Gulf coast, with were more than a dozen aftershocks reported.

Iran has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years as major geological fault lines crisscross the country.


Houthi militia targets army positions in Taiz

Houthi militia targets army positions in Taiz
Updated 4 min 27 sec ago

Houthi militia targets army positions in Taiz

Houthi militia targets army positions in Taiz
  • The militia is also accused of targeting the army’s sites and residential neighborhoods using snipers

DUBAI: The Houthi militia has bombed army bases in Al-Dhabab area, west of Taiz, according to reports by state news agency Saba on Friday.

This comes as part of the militia’s daily violations of the UN truce, wrote Saba.

Yemen’s army has recorded a total of 2,778 violations by the Houthis since the beginning of the truce until Thursday.

The Taiz Military Axis said the violations ranged from artillery shelling, establishing fortifications and new sites, bringing in reinforcements, building roads, laying mines, conducting reconnaissance, and using drones.

The militia is also accused of targeting the army’s sites and residential neighborhoods using snipers.


At least five killed in magnitude 6.1 quake on Iran Gulf coast

Iranians gather outside their buildings after an earthquake was felt in the capital Tehran on May 7, 2020. (AFP)
Iranians gather outside their buildings after an earthquake was felt in the capital Tehran on May 7, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 02 July 2022

At least five killed in magnitude 6.1 quake on Iran Gulf coast

Iranians gather outside their buildings after an earthquake was felt in the capital Tehran on May 7, 2020. (AFP)
  • The quake struck just a minute after a 5.7 tremor

TEHRAN: At least five people were killed by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake in southern Iran early on Saturday, state media reported, with the area also hit by two later strong quakes of up to 6.3 magnitude.
“Five people have died in the earthquake ... and so far 12 are hospitalized,” Mehrdad Hassanzadeh, head of emergency management in Hormozgan Province on Iran’s Gulf coast, told state TV. “Rescue work has been carried out and we are now providing tents as emergency housing.”

A handout shakemap made available by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows the location of a 6.1-magnitude earthquake hitting around 54km north east of Bandar-e Lengeh, Iran, 02 July 2022. (EPA)

The state news agency IRNA said a magnitude 6.3 earthquake and a magnitude 6.1 quake followed the 6.1 quake that flattened the village of Sayeh Khosh near Iran’s Gulf coast. There were more than a dozen aftershocks.
“All of the victims died in the first earthquake and no-one was harmed in the next two severe quakes as people were already outside their homes,” said Foad Moradzadeh, governor of Bandar Lengeh country, quoted by the state news agency IRNA.
Major geological fault lines crisscross Iran, which has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 quake in Kerman province killed 31,000 people and flattened the ancient city of Bam.

 


Protesters storm into parliament building in eastern Libya

Protesters storm into parliament building in eastern Libya
Updated 02 July 2022

Protesters storm into parliament building in eastern Libya

Protesters storm into parliament building in eastern Libya



BENGHAZI, Libya: Demonstrators broke into the building that houses the eastern Libya-based parliament in Tobruk on Friday, setting fire to parts of it amid protests over months of failed efforts to set the divided country on a path toward elections.
One witness, Taher Amaizig, said thousands joined a march to the parliament building calling for the current political powers to be dissolved and elections to be held. He said that as security guards tried to prevent people from entering, a protester was shot in the legs and other demonstrators then forced their way inside.
Videos circulated on social media showed protesters filing past burning piles. Friday is the first day of the weekend in Libya, meaning the building was likely empty when it was stormed. It was unclear what protesters intended by targeting the building
Other protests demanding elections were staged earlier in the day in several cities around Libya.
The unrest comes a day after representatives of Libya’s rival powers — one based in the east of the country and the other in the west — failed at UN-mediated talks in Geneva to reach agreement on a constitutional framework for national elections.
After more than a decade of war, the country is once again split between competing administrations, sliding backwards despite a year of tentative steps toward unity.
Oil-rich Libya has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, leading to a rise in rival governments. The administration based in the east is backed by military commander Khalifa Haftar, and a UN-supported administration is based in the capital of Tripoli. Each side is supported by different militias and foreign powers.
Tobruk, the seat of Libya’s House of Representatives, has long been allied with Haftar. More recently the parliament there elected Fathy Basghagha as prime minister to a government that rivals the Tripoli-based administration. Bashagha, a powerful former interior minister, is now operating a separate administration out of the city of Sirte.
Libya’s plan for elections last Dec. 24 fell through after the interim administration based in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, failed to go ahead with the vote. The failure was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in Libya.
The deteriorating economic situation was also a factor in Friday’s protests. In Tripoli, hundreds came out earlier in the day in opposition to the political crisis but also to rail against electricity shortages and rising prices for fuel and bread.


Libya’s Dbeibah says ‘election’ the only solution for crisis

Libya’s Dbeibah says ‘election’ the only solution for crisis
Updated 02 July 2022

Libya’s Dbeibah says ‘election’ the only solution for crisis

Libya’s Dbeibah says ‘election’ the only solution for crisis

The head of Libya’s Government of National Unity Abdulhamid Al-Dbeibah said he supports protesters in the country, agrees that all institutions should leave including the government, and there is no way to do that except through “election.”
Dbeibah’s comments come after protesters stormed the parliament building in the eastern city of Tobruk and staged the biggest demonstration for years in the capital Tripoli, in the west.