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.”

 


Turkish troops, Kurdish fighters exchange heavy shelling in Syria’s Kobani

Turkish troops, Kurdish fighters exchange heavy shelling in Syria’s Kobani
Updated 7 sec ago

Turkish troops, Kurdish fighters exchange heavy shelling in Syria’s Kobani

Turkish troops, Kurdish fighters exchange heavy shelling in Syria’s Kobani
  • Artillery fire hit within the town and around its edges, starting overnight and intensifying throughout the day
BEIRUT: Turkish troops and US-backed Kurdish fighters exchanged heavy shellfire on Tuesday in the northern Syrian border town of Kobani, leaving one civilian dead as the conflict between the warring parties escalated.
The artillery fire hit within the town and around its edges, starting overnight and intensifying throughout the day, according to residents and the semi-autonomous local administration governing the town.
The administration said in an online statement that at least one child died due to the shelling and others were wounded.
Ankara sees the semi-autonomous system — spearheaded by Kurdish factions and governing swathes of northern and eastern Syria — as a national security threat on its border.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has pledged a new incursion to create a 30-kilometer safe zone in northern Syria, swallowing up Kobani and other towns held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
Kobani has been relatively calm since US-backed Kurdish fighters pushed back Daesh fighters from the town in 2015.
But shelling and drone attacks have been ramping up in many border towns. At least three Kurdish commanders were killed last month which the SDF blamed on Ankara.
Dilvin, a shopkeeper and married mother of one, said scenes of chaos broke out in Kobani when the shelling intensified on Tuesday.
“People started running everywhere, cars everywhere, people asking about their friends and their family. Then the sounds started to build, the sounds were everywhere,” she told Reuters by phone from Kobani.
“There was so much screaming. So much fear. Now everyone is locked up at home,” said Dilvin, who preferred to identify herself with just a first name for security reasons.

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes
Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes
  • 2 soldiers were wounded in last Friday’s clashes between army units and terrorists

DUBAI: Tunisia’s minister of defense, Imed Memmiche, visited two soldiers who were wounded in last Friday’s clashes between army units and terrorists in Mount Salloum in Kasserine. 
 
Memmiche went to the Tunis military hospital on Monday to commend the men for their ‘patriotism and sense of duty’, according to the Ministry of Defense’s statement released on state news agency TAP.


UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222
Updated 16 August 2022

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222
  • The non-profit organization has donated to 22,517 projects so far this year

Dar Al Ber Society has spent over $56 million during the first half of 2022 on charitable and sustainable development projects that have benefitted 2.9 million people worldwide and in the UAE, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Monday. 

The non-profit organization has donated to 22,517 projects so far this year, according to WAM. 

More than $13.6 million were donated to a total of 8,901 projects in the first quarter of this year, while $14,128,257 were directed to 13,616 projects in the second quarter, the CEO and Managing Director of Dar Al Ber SocietyMuhammad Suhail Al-Muhairi said. 

Some of these humanitarian projects have been completed while others are underway, he added. 

The Dar Al Ber Society helped build 2,144 mosques – 904 in the first quarter and 1,240 in the second quarter. 

A total of 8,121 water-saving projects were also built with the help of the donations, Al-Muhairi said.

The organization helped set up 4,929 projects for families, as well as launch 5,285 medical projects, according to WAM. 

Dar Al Ber also implemented its seasonal projects in 37 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, in cooperation with 32 of its partners in the respective countries.

Represented by the Department of Zakat in the Projects and Zakat Sector, Dar Al Ber Society donated more than $11.6 million in local aid to 346,541 beneficiaries.


Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis
Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis
  • The meeting represented “positive and constructive dialogue that reflects the strength of bilateral relations”

DUBAI: Tunisia’s foreign minister discussed ways to rectify the democratic process in the country during a meeting with the chargée d'affaires at the US Embassy in Tunis on Monday. 
Othman Jerandi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Migration and Tunisians Abroad, met with Natasha Franceschi, chargée d'affaires at the US Embassy, to step up consultations between the two countries, Tunisia’s state news agency TAP reported. 
The meeting represented “positive and constructive dialogue that reflects the strength of bilateral relations,” the Foreign Affairs Department said in a statement.
Upcoming bilateral events, such as the Joint Military Commission, were also discussed at the meeting, according to the same statement.
During the meeting, Jerandi welcomed the ties between the two countries, while Franceschi stressed the US’ keenness to develop partnerships with Tunisia in all sectors.
Franceschi also presented America’s initiative to host the US-Africa Leaders Summit scheduled for Dec. 13-15 in Washington.


Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three
Updated 16 August 2022

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three
  • Similar police operations were also undertaken in Zarqa, northeast of Amman

DUBAI: Three people were arrested after Jordanian police on Monday raided a house in East Amman that was being used as a crystal meth laboratory.

The raid was carried out after agents of the anti-narcotics department received a tip off.

The officers did not find the suspect in his home, but discovered and subsequently seized chemicals used for manufacturing methamphetamine.

The man was arrested later during a follow-up operation, where he also said he had an accomplice who worked with him to produce and sell the narcotics.

In a similar effort in Jordan’s campaign to crack down on the illegal drug trade, police raided a chalet west of Al-Balqa and arrested a man found in possession of marijuana and as well as a firearm on suspicion after he tried to flee.

Similar police operations were also undertaken in Zarqa, northeast of Amman, where suspects have been arrested while in possession of illegal drugs and narcotics.