While the Lebanese Republic was already suffering from prolonging economic and financial crises, the Coronavirus pandemic has added to the woes of the government after the imposition of lockdown to curtail the pandemic spread. As the already ravaged economy further deteriorated due to nationwide shutdowns, hundreds of agitated protestors carried out anti-government demonstrations this week on the streets of Beirut, Sidon, and other cities.
As per media reports, protesters clashed with security forces and vandalized banks in Lebanon’s second-largest city Tripoli, which is also being regarded as the county’s poorest city. Several banks set on fire by protesters across the country. Reportedly, in some instances, rocks and petrol bombs were also hurled at banks, resulting in confinement of several protesters by the Lebanese army.
Angry demonstrators across the country have been raising voices and chanting slogans against increasing living costs, government corruption, rapid depreciation of local currency, and controversial bank policies. Defying state-imposed curfew, protests amid Coronavirus lockdown are being dubbed as “the revolution of the hungry people.”
Notably, the anti-establishment uprising erupted across the country in October 2019 with the Lebanese citizens protesting calling for accountability over rampant government corruption, regressive tax system, and unfavourable standard of living.
In the aftermath of the revolution, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced stepped down from the post on October 29. However, after the formation of a new government in January, protesters proclaimed their lack of confidence in the newly-elected Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his cabinet as well. Significantly, the new government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis has been inadequate to further erode the public trust in the establishment.
While the Diab-led government had announced financial assistance to thousands of families, the aid has not been provided to the citizens yet.
Lebanon’s Finance Ministry has stated the inflation will reach 27% in 2020, as the value of the Lebanese lira continues to plummet, losing around half its value by April. Earlier in April, the country’s Social Affairs Minister Ramzi Moucharafieh admitted that around 70-75% population is in dire need of financial assistance due to the deepening hunger crisis and increasing job losses.
According to the World Bank, the real GDP growth in Lebanon is projected to contract by almost 11% in 2020 and the lockdown will have a severe impact on the country’s economy especially over Q1-Q2 2020, concentrating on key sectors such as retail, real estate, and banking. The World Bank has also projected that 45% of the Lebanese would be below the poverty line in 2020 due to worsening economic situation.
The IMF has also predicted the Lebanese economy to contract by 12% this year which is the third-deepest recession forecast in the world. Furthermore, an economic rescue plan, approved by the Diab government after talks with the IMF, was rejected by the Lebanese banks on May 1, arguing that it would ‘further destroy confidence’ in the country.
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