Lebanon bids to please striking public sector employees with pay rise, social assistance

A woman counts Lebanese pound and US dollar banknotes at a currency exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon. (REUTERS)
A woman counts Lebanese pound and US dollar banknotes at a currency exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon. (REUTERS)
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Updated 23 July 2022

Lebanon bids to please striking public sector employees with pay rise, social assistance

A woman counts Lebanese pound and US dollar banknotes at a currency exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon. (REUTERS)
  • Political disasters are ravaging Lebanon, says top security official
  • Warning of ‘unprecedented crisis’ from US-Lebanese delegation

BEIRUT: Political observers fear a strike by Lebanon’s public sector employees that started a month ago will turn into civil disobedience if it is not dealt with properly, amid government efforts to address their grievances.

The heads of the administrative units in the Ministry of Education and Higher Education announced that they, too, would join the strike by Monday.

Ministry employees said they were joining the strike because their salaries no longer covered the cost of getting to work and because of delays in paying transport allowances and social assistance that were approved months ago.

They said they were also protesting against the “humiliation” they faced in banks while trying to withdraw their salaries, which were barely enough to feed their children and cover medicine and hospitalization costs.

But public sector employees fear their industrial action will affect their July salaries as Finance Ministry employees are also on strike.

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, director-general of Lebanon’s General Security agency, warned that political disasters were ravaging the country and the state was “rapidly falling.”

He said: “Only the military and security institutions remain, but the country could be facing further deterioration.”

Salaries were not enough to cover basic needs, and there were no signs that Lebanon and its components were making any progress, he added.

“Everyone seems to be involved in the race for the presidency while forming a government seems to be postponed due to the current political impasse.”

He said public administration was shut and that the Lebanese were suffocating. “We do not know when it is time to surrender. We are in a country roaming on shifting sands.”

Ibrahim said the national currency’s value was ever-depreciating and that Lebanon was, unfortunately, not present at the discussion table of the regional and international community, except as a new home for refugees and displaced people.

His warnings came amid indications that public sector employees might hear some good news in the coming days.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Finance Minister Youssef Khalil have been making efforts to convince Finance Ministry employees to go to their offices to ensure all striking workers receive their July salaries on time.

The representative for the Employees Association in the government, Hassan Wehbe, said: “The initial agreement provides for giving an additional salary with the previously approved social assistance worth LBP2,000,000 ($1,326.7) in addition to an LBP95,000 transportation allowance for every work day, with incentives that may amount to a minimum of LBP200,000 LBP and a maximum of LBP300,000.”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has signed a decree to give temporary social assistance to all public sector employees and retirees and to give the Finance Ministry an advance from the treasury to cover this assistance.

But the proposal has not satisfied the committees leading the strike. The industrial action was sparked by a decision to pay judges' salaries according to the US dollar exchange rate of LBP8,000 instead of LBP1,507, which was the official rate before the Lebanese economic collapse began in 2019.

Caretaker Minister of Social Affairs Hector Hajjar said a meeting on Monday was expected to suggest solutions that would be in everyone’s interests, especially employees.

Hajjar said that the public sector could not function properly by only allocating two working days per week but through the possibility of allocating new revenues to the treasury.

A delegation of the Lebanese-American Coordination Committee said the country was facing an unprecedented crisis at the constitutional, sovereign, economic and social levels.

It said many sectors were severely affected and subject to massive collapse.

The observations came at the end of the delegation's visit to Lebanon, which included meetings with key government officials, parties, and activists.

The committee said that Lebanon’s friends in the international community and the Arab world had expressed keenness to save the country's identity and ensure its recovery.

“This proves that Lebanon is not left behind, and all concerned parties in the US are making sure support is provided for Lebanon, especially to the Lebanese army. The constitution must be respected and all international resolutions regarding Lebanon’s sovereignty must be implemented.

“This is a historic moment that should not be wasted because of political settlements and positions that lack courage. Wasting this opportunity could lead to Lebanon’s total collapse.”

 


Iran says US trying to violate sovereignty over unrest, warns of response

Iran says US trying to violate sovereignty over unrest, warns of response
Updated 6 sec ago

Iran says US trying to violate sovereignty over unrest, warns of response

Iran says US trying to violate sovereignty over unrest, warns of response
DUBAI: US attempts to violate Iran’s sovereignty over the issue of protests triggered by the death of a woman in police custody will not go unanswered, the foreign ministry said on Monday.
Iran has been rocked by nationwide demonstrations sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, after she was detained by morality police enforcing the Islamic Republic’s strict restrictions on women’s dress.
The case has drawn international condemnation. Iran has said the United States was supporting rioters and seeking to destablize the Islamic Republic.
“Washington is always trying to weaken Iran’s stability and security although it has been unsuccessful,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani told Nour news, which is affiliated with a top security body, in a statement.

Syria cholera death toll rises to 29 — health ministry

Syria cholera death toll rises to 29 — health ministry
Updated 31 min 31 sec ago

Syria cholera death toll rises to 29 — health ministry

Syria cholera death toll rises to 29 — health ministry
  • The highly contagious disease has also spread to the country’s Kurdish-held and opposition areas in north and northwestern Syria

AMMAN: A cholera outbreak in several regions of Syria has killed 29 people, the Syrian health ministry said on Monday in what the UN has called the worst outbreak in the war-torn country for years.
Rapid assessment testing confirmed 338 cases since the outbreak was first recorded last month, with the bulk of deaths and cases in the northern Aleppo province, the ministry said in a statement.
It said 230 cases were in Aleppo province where 25 people were confirmed dead. The rest were spread across the country.
The United Nations this month said the outbreak was believed be linked to irrigation of crops using contaminated water and people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates river which bisects Syria from the north to the east.
The highly contagious disease has also spread to the country’s Kurdish-held and opposition areas in north and northwestern Syria where millions have been displaced by the decade-old conflict, medical officials said.
Suspected cholera cases have risen to 2,092 in the northeast of Syria since the outbreak was announced this month, said the US-based International Rescue Committee (IRC) which operates in the northern region.
It said there were fears about significant under-reporting of cases.
The widespread destruction of national water infrastructure after more than a decade of war means much of the Syrian population is reliant on unsafe water sources.
Prior to the recent cholera outbreak, the water crisis had caused an increase in diseases such as diarrhea, malnutrition and skin conditions in the region, according to the World Health Organization.


Egypt to release new batch of 39 pretrial detainees: Presidential Pardon Committee  

Egypt to release new batch of 39 pretrial detainees: Presidential Pardon Committee  
Updated 46 min 26 sec ago

Egypt to release new batch of 39 pretrial detainees: Presidential Pardon Committee  

Egypt to release new batch of 39 pretrial detainees: Presidential Pardon Committee  
  • MP Tarek El-Khouly said the move was in cooperation with state authorities and the country’s Public Prosecution

DUBAI: Egypt has ordered the release of 39 pretrial detainees on Monday. 
MP Tarek El-Khouly, a member of the Presidential Pardon Committee, said the move was in cooperation with state authorities and the country’s Public Prosecution. 
Egypt’s Public Prosecution has ordered the release of hundreds of pretrial detainees in groups since May. 
This comes as the government and various political forces prepare for extensive national political dialogue that will focus on political, economic, and social issues. 
Since its inception in 2016, the committee has received the names of prisoners eligible for presidential pardon consideration from different parties and political forces, including the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), the parliament’s Human Rights Committee, as well as directly through its own official website.


Renewed militia clashes rock western Libya; 5 killed

Renewed militia clashes rock western Libya; 5 killed
Updated 26 September 2022

Renewed militia clashes rock western Libya; 5 killed

Renewed militia clashes rock western Libya; 5 killed
  • Along with the five who were killed, at least 13 other civilians were wounded

CAIRO: A new round of infighting between rogue militias in western Libya has killed at least five people, including a 10-year-old girl, health authorities said Monday, the latest bout of violence to rock the North African nation mired in decadelong chaos.
The fighting broke out on Sunday between rival militias in the western town of Zawiya, where armed groups — like in many other towns and cities in oil-rich Libya — are competing for influence.
Along with the five who were killed, at least 13 other civilians were wounded in the clashes that continued overnight, the Health Ministry’s emergency services said.
The fighting trapped dozens of families living in the area for hours, said Malek Merset, a spokesman for the emergency services. Local media reported that one militia fired at a member of its rivals, wounding a militiaman who was taken to hospital.
The violence was the latest between militias in western Libya. In August, clashes in the capital of Tripoli killed more than 30 people, one of the deadliest bouts of fighting in Libya in many months.
Libya was plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The oil-rich county has for years been split between rival administrations, each backed by rogue militias and foreign governments.
Libya is now split between two rival administrations. One is that of the government of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Tripoli who refused to step down after Libya failed to hold elections last year. A second administration is led Prime Minister Fathy Bashagha who operates from the eastern city of Benghazi after failed efforts to install his government in the capital.


UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed to visit Oman

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed to visit Oman
Updated 26 September 2022

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed to visit Oman

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed to visit Oman
  • Reinforcing economic relations will be at the center of the visit

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan will visit Oman on Tuesday in his second state visit since assuming presidency in May.

The two-day visit comes in response to the invitation of Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, according to Emirates News Agency (WAM).

During the visit, both leaders will meet to explore opportunities for increased collaboration in several sectors including finance and industry, as well as review ways to empower youth for a better future for the two countries.  

Reinforcing economic relations will be at the center of the visit, said WAM.

Both leaders will review the recent developments in the Arab region and reflect on efforts made to achieve peace and prosperity.

“The visit will also cement the two nations’ shared vision for a secure and stable region that promotes sustainable development and supports a thriving economy,” read the WAM statement.

In a statement, Sayyid Ahmed Hilal Al Busaidi, Ambassador of Oman to the UAE, said the visit would strengthen business partnerships and increase investment opportunities.

He said the longstanding keenness of both countries to deepen relations have spurred growth in various fields, which can reflect positively on the wider region.

Al Busaidi also highlighted the significance of bilateral coordination at the political level through coordination and consultation about various regional and international issues.