Lebanese take streets as anger grows over Economic Collapse

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In the capital city, Lebanese authorities deployed tear gas against a group of demonstrators, primarily composed of retired security personnel, who had congregated near government structures to voice their grievances about the worsening economic circumstances.

On Wednesday, a group of people congregated in the central streets of Beirut, holding either Lebanon’s tricolor flag or flags displaying security forces’ logos. The demonstration was organized by retired soldiers and depositors who have been facing restricted access to their savings due to local banks’ implementation of unofficial capital controls, which is a result of Lebanon’s ongoing financial crisis – considered the most severe in the country’s recent history.

The demonstrators who were advocating for improved salaries threw rocks at the officers guarding the government headquarters and made several attempts to breach the fence.

Several people suffered breathing problems from the tear gas.

The demonstrators were angry at the worsening value of state pensions paid in the local currency. The Lebanese pound has lost more than 98 percent of its value against the United States dollar since 2019, with the situation deteriorating in recent weeks.

The pound hit a new low on Tuesday, selling for more than 143,000 pounds to the dollar before making some gains. The official rate is 15,000 pounds to the dollar.

Zeina Khodr said Lebanon is in the fourth year of a deep economic crisis, which experts say has its root in decades of corruption and mismanagement by a political class that has ruled the country since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

“There is anger,” Khodr said.

“People believe that the political and business elite do not want to solve the crisis because that will involve economic and structural reforms and fighting corruption. If the elite does that, they lose control over the state and its resource which they have been exploiting for years now,” she added.

The crisis has led to school closures and left families unable to afford food and pay for fuel or other basic needs, Khodr said. Government-subsidised electricity, meanwhile, is mostly unavailable.

“Our kids are hungry. We’re hungry,” said Mohamad el-Khateeb, a 59-year-old who had served in the army for 32 years.

“We left the army with nothing. No healthcare, no welfare, our kids are out of school and prices are rising obscenely. What do you expect?” he added.

Patrick Mardini, director of the Lebanese Institute for Market Studies, said “the main reason behind the currency devaluation is the massive printing of Lebanese pound that is being pumped into the system.

he said at the beginning of the crisis, we had around four trillion Lebanese pounds in circulation; today we are at around 70 trillion”.

Mardini said the situation was compounded by a lack of confidence and trust in the Central Bank and the whole banking system, as a whole.

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