Lebanon markets keep an eye on serious measures to rein in dollar

People walk past closed or half-open shops in the popular market of the Burj Hammoud neighbourhood of Lebanon's capital Beirut on December 14, 2021. (AFP)
People walk past closed or half-open shops in the popular market of the Burj Hammoud neighbourhood of Lebanon's capital Beirut on December 14, 2021. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 29 May 2022

Lebanon markets keep an eye on serious measures to rein in dollar

People walk past closed or half-open shops in the popular market of the Burj Hammoud neighbourhood of Lebanon's capital Beirut.
  • Parliament speaker focused on renewing his term while Lebanon races against ‘big collapse,’ national bloc says

BEIRUT: The dollar exchange rate continued its fall on the black market in Lebanon on Saturday, recording 27,650 pounds against the dollar, a drop of 11,000 pounds in less than 18 hours.

The drop was a way of easing people’s anger and calming the markets a few days before the newly elected parliament convenes on Tuesday to elect a speaker, a deputy speaker and the parliamentary committees.

The Lebanese National Bloc said that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was focused on renewing his term, while the country was racing against what it termed as “a big collapse” and the health sector was warning of the imminent collapse of hospitals.

Berri is expected to win reelection for the sixth time, despite opposition from Christian parties and opposition parliamentary blocs.

Berri should receive around 60 votes from members of his bloc, Hezbollah’s deputies and his allies’ deputies, far less than the 98 votes out of 128 he obtained in the previous parliament.

BACKGROUND

The central bank governor has asked banks to keep their branches and funds open until 6 p.m. for three consecutive days from Monday to meet citizens’ requests to buy dollars at the Sayrafa price.

One political observer said that the position of deputy speaker, which is reserved for an Orthodox deputy, had almost been secured for MP Elias Bou Saab from the Free Patriotic Movement bloc, although the bloc refuses to vote for Berri as speaker.

On Friday, the dollar exchange rate exceeded 38,000 pounds, creating unprecedented chaos in all sectors and leading to popular anger.

The dollar rate started to decrease rapidly after central bank governor Riad Salameh announced on Friday that individuals and institutions are able buy dollars from banks at the Sayrafa rate on a daily basis.

Commercial markets witnessed a state of shock on Saturday. Some shops stopped selling goods as they waited to see if the dollar rate would stabilize at the beginning of next week.

An employee in a private company said that she converted her LBP salary when the dollar rate was at its peak on Friday, fearing that it might lose more of its value if she kept the sum in Lebanese pounds.

However, the significant drop of the exchange rate by 10,000 Lebanese pounds on Friday night shocked her, as the value of her salary significantly depreciated.

Finance Minister Youssef Khalil estimated the black market exchange volume at $5 million per day.

The trading volume on the Sayrafa platform exceeds tens of millions of dollars per day, he said.

“This means that the incontrollable increase of the dollar rate is not normal, which supports the hypothesis that some people would create this exchange rate gap and are responsible for the high black-market exchange rate for political and commercial reasons or to create panic in markets.”

Economic expert Walid Abou Sleiman said that the central bank was intervening in the market to absorb the money supply in Lebanese pounds to prevent speculation and to reduce the margin in the financial market — namely the Sayrafa platform — where the rate exceeded 12,000 Lebanese pounds.

This procedure might be temporary, and contributes to the decrease of the dollar rate, he said, but added: “What matters is sustainability.”

Abou Sleiman said that “combating speculation does not happen through these procedures, but through a central platform that limits the trading for purchases and sales.”

The central bank governor has asked banks to keep their branches and funds open until 6 p.m. for three consecutive days from Monday to meet citizens’ requests to buy dollars at the Sayrafa price.

The governor’s circulars are postponing the “explosion for a few days,” the Lebanese National Bloc pointed out.

The bloc believes that the “collapse scenario could have been avoided if the needed reforms to restructure debt and the banking sector had been applied, in addition to taking the necessary decisions to unify the exchange rate and strengthen the administrative and judicial surveillance.”

The bloc also believed it could have also been avoided if Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet had not waited until its last session to propose its financial rescue plan in an attempt to circumvent the people and the international community, when throughout its mandate, it was busy protecting cartels and bankers.

“The solution is to elect the parliament bodies and committees within the next week and start the electoral consultations to form a rescue government that does not adopt sectarian allocation,” it said.

It called for implementing the financial reforms requested by the IMF and the formulation of an integrated plan to strengthen the economy.


Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit
Updated 6 min 55 sec ago

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit
  • During his visit, the prime minister expressed condolences on the death of former UAE President

ABU DHABI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday after concluding his visit to Germany, where he attended the G7 Summit.

During his visit to the UAE, Modi expressed his condolences on the death of former UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who passed away last month.

"In a very special gesture, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and members of the Royal family came all the way to the airport to meet PM Modi" said Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperon Arindam Bagchi.

At the airport, the leaders were seen hugging and greeting each other.

The prime minister also took the opportunity to congratulate Sheikh Mohammed on his election as the new President of the UAE, the Ministry of External Affairs said.

This was the prime minister’s first visit since two leaders signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement earlier this year


Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port
Updated 28 June 2022

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port
  • A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship on Monday dropped one of them, causing an explosion of toxic yellow smoke

AQABA, Jordan: Jordan’s prime minister said Tuesday that he has instructed authorities to launch an investigation into the deadly blast the previous day at the Red Sea port of Aqaba that killed at least 13 people.
A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship on Monday dropped one of them, causing an explosion of toxic yellow smoke. Along with those killed, some 250 were sickened, authorities said.
Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh visited the site Tuesday and, citing civil defense and environmental authorities, said the gas concentration in the area had returned to normal. He said that most movement at the port has resumed, except for the exact site of the incident which was being cleaned and inspected.
Al-Khasawneh said “other nationalities” were among the dead, without elaborating. He said many of those in hospitals were being discharged.
Video carried on state TV showed the moment the tank exploded, sending dockworkers scrambling to escape the toxic cloud. Some 200 people were hospitalized.
The Public Security Directorate, which initially described it as a gas leak, said authorities sealed off the area after evacuating the injured and sent specialists in to address the situation.
State-run Jordan TV said 13 people were killed. Al-Mamlaka TV, another official outlet, said 199 were still being treated in hospitals. The Public Security Directorate said a total of 251 people were injured.
Aqaba is on the northern tip of the Red Sea, next to the Israeli city of Eilat, which is just across the border. Both are popular beach and diving destinations.
Eilat’s emergency services said in a statement that there was no impact on the city but that they were following the situation closely.


Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice
Updated 28 June 2022

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

DUBAI: Kuwait’s interior ministry said Tuesday that it has suspended issuing tourist visas for those wishing to visit the gulf state. 

“The interior ministry has announced that it has stopped issuing family and tourist visit visas from Monday until further notice,” read a statement on state-run news agency KUNA.

The decision comes in light of preparations for a new regulations to serve the interests and develop the process, it said.


Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections
Updated 28 June 2022

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections
  • Talks will focus on a draft constitutional framework for elections after Libya’s rival factions failed to reach an agreement in their last round of discussions

GENEVA: Two senior Libyan officials began two days of talks Tuesday on constitutional arrangements for elections, the latest UN effort to bridge gaps between the country’s rivals.
Aguila Saleh, the influential speaker of the country’s east-based parliament, and Khaled Al-Meshri, head of the government’s Supreme Council of State, based in the west, in the capital of Tripoli, met at the UN headquarters in Geneva.
According to the United Nations, the talks will focus on a draft constitutional framework for elections after Libya’s rival factions failed to reach an agreement in their last round of talks in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.
The criteria for a presidential candidacy were a contentious point in the talks, according to Libyan media. The Tripoli-based council insisted on banning military personal from running for the country’s top post — apparently a move directed at the divisive commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are loyal to the east-based administration.
Haftar had announced his bid in elections slated for last December but the vote was not held because of myriad issues, including controversial hopefuls who had announced bids and disputes about election laws.
There are growing tensions on the ground, and sporadic clashes between rival militias recently erupted in Tripoli. Living conditions have also deteriorated, mainly because of fuel shortages in the oil-rich nation. Tribal leaders have shut down many oil facilities, including the country’s largest field.
The blockade was largely meant to cut off key state revenues to the incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who has refused to step down even though the vote was not held in December.
Now, Dbeibah and another prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, appointed by the east-based parliament to lead a transitional government, are claiming power. The rivalry has sparked fears the oil-rich country could slide back to fighting after tentative steps toward unity last year.
Libya has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country was then for years split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments.


UN: Syria civilian death toll over 306,000 since 2011

UN: Syria civilian death toll over 306,000 since 2011
Updated 28 June 2022

UN: Syria civilian death toll over 306,000 since 2011

UN: Syria civilian death toll over 306,000 since 2011
  • Toll includes those killed as a direct result of war operations and not those who died from lack of access to basic needs

GENEVA: The first 10 years of Syria’s conflict, which started in 2011, killed more than 300,000 civilians, the United Nations said Tuesday — the highest official estimate to date of conflict-related civilian deaths in the country.
The conflict began with anti-government protests that broke out in March 2011 in different parts of Syria, demanding democratic reforms.
However, it quickly turned into a full-blown civil war that killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed large parts of the country.
Tuesday’s report published by the UN Human Rights Office followed what it said were rigorous assessment and statistical analysis of the available data on civilian casualties. According to the report, 306,887 civilians are estimated to have been killed in Syria between March 1, 2011 and March 31, 2021 because of the conflict.
The figures released by the UN do not include soldiers and insurgents killed in the conflict; their numbers are believed to be in the tens of thousands. The numbers also do not include people who were killed and buried by their families without notifying authorities.
“These are the people killed as a direct result of war operations. This does not include the many, many more civilians who died due to the loss of access to health care, to food, to clean water and other essential human rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
The report, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, cited 143,350 civilian deaths individually documented by various sources with detailed information, including at least their full name, date and location of death.
Also, statistical estimation techniques were used to connect the dots where there were missing elements of information. Using these techniques, a further 163,537 civilian deaths were estimated to have occurred.
“The conflict-related casualty figures in this report are not simply a set of abstract numbers, but represent individual human beings,” Bachelet said. She added that the work of civil society organizations and the UN in monitoring and documenting conflict-related deaths is key in helping families and communities establish the truth, seek accountability and pursue effective remedies.
The estimate of 306,887 means that on average, every single day, for the past 10 years, 83 civilians suffered violent deaths due to the conflict, the report said. It was based on eight sources of information — including the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, the Center for Statistics and Research-Syria, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Violations Documentation Center.