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Lifeless Lebanon lurches into new turmoil amid worsening economic crises

BEIRUT: Lebanon continued its freefall into economic turmoil on Friday, with the medical, fuel, and food crises worsening and no political initiative being taken to overcome the deteriorating situation. The value of the Lebanese pound dropped to record lows, trading at 23,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on the black market. This crash was at least…

Lifeless Lebanon lurches into new turmoil amid worsening economic crises

BEIRUT: Lebanon continued its freefall into economic turmoil on Friday, with the medical, fuel, and food crises worsening and no political initiative being taken to overcome the deteriorating situation.

The value of the Lebanese pound dropped to record lows, trading at 23,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on the black market.

This crash was at least partly due to a speech given by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday evening, in which he reaffirmed his hostile positions toward Saudi Arabia and called on the Lebanese to have “patience,” offering no solutions to their mounting problems.

Fuel prices suddenly shot up on Friday. The price of a 20-liter gasoline canister ranged between 310,800 and 319,600 Lebanese pounds, the price of a diesel canister reached 311,000 pounds, and gas cylinders were selling for 266,000 pounds.

The average price of fuel is now equivalent to half of the minimum wage.

Gas station owners reported an approximately 50 percent “decline in the sale of fuel.”

Meanwhile, Economy Minister Amin Salam on Thursday decided to reduce the weight of a bundle of bread while maintaining its current price, which is the highest it has ever reached.

A 1,050-gram bundle is now sold for 9,500 Lebanese pounds.

The Ministry of Economy attributed this to “the high prices of flour, diesel and other materials.”

Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, issued a statement following a 12-day mission to study poverty in Lebanon, a copy of which Arab News obtained from the UN office in Beirut.

“The Lebanese authorities’ destruction of the national currency, political deadlock, and reinforcement of long-standing inequalities have plunged the country into abject poverty,” he said in the report.

“Lebanon is not a failed state yet, but it is a failing state, with a government failing its population,” he added.

“The destruction of the Lebanese pound has devastated lives and impoverished millions.”

De Schutter described the crisis in Lebanon as “manufactured.”

He added: “While the population is trying to survive day-to-day, the government wastes precious time evading accountability and scapegoating refugees from the comfort of their offices.

“This outrageous level of inequality is furthered by a tax system that rewards the banking sector, encourages tax evasion and concentrates wealth in the hands of the few. In the meantime, the population is subject to regressive taxes that hit the poorest most.

“This is a human-made disaster that was long in the making.”

De Schutter expressed his concern that the “political leadership seems unwilling to see the relationship between tax reform and poverty alleviation and underestimates the benefits of social protection systems for rebuilding the economy, especially in times of crisis.

“Unfortunately, I heard no credible poverty alleviation plan from the government that does not rely on international donors and non-governmental organizations. Dependence on international aid is not sustainable and in fact it weakens state institutions.”

The UN expert added: “The question is what political leaders spent the resources on.

“For decades, Lebanon ignored the need for social policies, including strong welfare programmes and public service infrastructure, and instead focused on unproductive sectors like banking, continuously expanding public debt and devoting those resources to debt servicing.”

He added: “Lebanon has an opportunity to rethink its economic model. Continuing to incentivize a failed model based on rentierism, inequality, and sectarianism will only sink the population further into destitution.”

He warned that the international community would not take Lebanese reforms seriously “until a credible plan is proposed for how to transform the economy, address inequality, ensure tax justice, and prevent further political stalemates,” warning that the donor community was running out of patience with the Lebanese government.

“After losing $240 million to the scam of arbitrary and unfavorable exchange rates, they need to see that the government is serious about transparency and accountability, and a rights-based approach can guide the government’s efforts in this process.”

De Schutter told Reuters: “Lebanon’s officials are living in fantasy land. This does not bode well for the country’s future.”

Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government, formed in September, is yet to convene amid an ongoing political dispute.

Meanwhile, the reserve in hard currencies at the Central Bank is shrinking to such an extent that it is no longer possible to support medicines for chronic diseases. This decline in economic capacity comes after the Central Bank lifted support for regular medicines.

The crisis has now affected patients suffering from severe and chronic diseases, especially cancer patients, who lack access to life-saving medicines.

Economist Dr. Louis Hobeika told Arab News: “The state’s revenues have vanished. The customs dollar, which is still priced according to the official exchange rate, is no longer logical, and it must be gradually raised, not immediately raised to the exchange rate on the Central Bank’s official platform.”

He added: “Politicians knew that we were on the verge of such a crisis three years ago, but they did not do anything and waited for solutions from abroad, and this did not happen.”

The economist added: “The reserves dried up, and the Central Bank says that it has only $13 billion, but it could be less.”

Hobeika said that the Ministry of Economy’s issuance of a new price for fuel coming just two days after another price was issued — which included an increase of 2,000 Lebanese pounds — indicates the extent of the crisis.

After meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Information Minister George Kordahi reiterated on Friday that he does not intend to resign from the government “without guarantees” — a position that Hobeika believes will “worsen Lebanon’s economic crisis after its political crisis with the Gulf.”

Hobeika added: “We have not yet seen the results of the economic boycott of Lebanon. We now fear for the fate of the Lebanese working in the Gulf, but what if the crisis affects transfers to universities, charities and civil society organizations? What if Gulf Air traffic stops? Won’t Lebanon suffocate? Patience will not do any good then.”

Despite growing pressures, it appears unlikely that the Lebanese will take to the streets to renew their protests. This popular reluctance to express anger “is way more than mere frustration, it is a loss of purpose,” Hobeika said. 

“Citizens are stuck in a hellish, vicious cycle.”

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El-Sisi reiterates need for end to foreign interference in Libya

CHICAGO: The Iranian regime has sanctioned a “campaign of hate” to fuel public animosity against the country’s Baha’i religious community, Baha’i officials told Arab News. Anthony Vance, Baha’i public affairs director in the US, said Iran has adopted laws that target its 300,000 Baha’is, barring them from universities and public sector employment, as well as…

El-Sisi reiterates need for end to foreign interference in Libya

CHICAGO: The Iranian regime has sanctioned a “campaign of hate” to fuel public animosity against the country’s Baha’i religious community, Baha’i officials told Arab News.

Anthony Vance, Baha’i public affairs director in the US, said Iran has adopted laws that target its 300,000 Baha’is, barring them from universities and public sector employment, as well as confiscating their property and arresting their leaders.

The religious group was founded in the mid-19th century in what was then Persia, and now has about 8 million followers worldwide.

More than 2 million Baha’is live in India, and there are sizable communities in the Middle East, Africa and the US.

“After the 1979 revolution, between 1979 and 1992, over 200 Baha’is were executed, killed in Iran, mostly by execution. Most were elected members of the (Baha’i) administration institutions. It’s clear that the (Iranian) regime was targeting those whom they perceived to be the leadership of the Baha’i community,” Vance said.

“Baha’is are barred from university education. They’re barred from employment in the public sector, by the government that is, or in government-owned entities. Given that the public sector makes up more than half of the Iranian economy, that’s quite a disadvantage in that society,” he added.

“There are genuine efforts to impoverish the Baha’i community. There have been confiscations of Baha’i property, several thousands since the revolution. But more recently, there have been attempts to make it a normal, legal attempt in the country. Just to illustrate, last year there were two appellate court decisions to affirm the lower court in the province of Mazid Darran that said the Baha’is were ritually unclean and don’t have any right to own property.”

Vance said persecution by Iran “is quite systematic” and has prevented the Baha’i community from growing in recent years.

The Baha’is are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran. The religion’s principle founder, a merchant who adopted the name Bab (“The Gate“), was executed in 1850 after he began preaching that another prophet similar to Jesus and Mohammed would appear. Persecution increased under the ayatollahs following the 1979 revolution.

Vance said Baha’is respect and recognize the importance of the Christian and Muslim traditions, and it is a monotheistic religion.

Persecution of Baha’is by Iran was the focus of a resolution introduced on Oct. 25 in the US House of Representatives, which condemned Tehran’s state-sponsored persecution of the community. There are more than 180,000 Baha’is in the US, Vance said.

The resolution called on Tehran to immediately release imprisoned or detained Baha’is and all other prisoners held solely on account of their religion; to end the campaign of hate propaganda against the Baha’is; and to reverse state-imposed policies denying them and members of other religious minorities equal opportunities to higher education, earning a livelihood, due process under the law, and the free exercise of religious practices.

It also calls on US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to condemn the Iranian regime’s continued violation of human rights and demand the immediate release of prisoners held solely on account of their religion.

The resolution, introduced by Florida Democrat Ted Deutch and supported by a bipartisan group, also calls for sanctions on Iranian regime officials over human rights abuses against the Baha’i community.

Vance praised support from the governments of Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, where there are small Baha’i populations.

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220,000 visitors at Egypt’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai since its opening

DUBAI: The Muslim World League has launched an exhibition on the lives of the prophets at its Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion. “The Prophets As If You See Them” uses the latest technology to present the biographies of Islam’s prophets and messengers. It sheds light on the messages of peace, love, affection, tolerance, coexistence, and humanity…

220,000 visitors at Egypt’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai since its opening

DUBAI: The Muslim World League has launched an exhibition on the lives of the prophets at its Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion.

“The Prophets As If You See Them” uses the latest technology to present the biographies of Islam’s prophets and messengers.

It sheds light on the messages of peace, love, affection, tolerance, coexistence, and humanity that they brought to the world.

It also highlights the noble morals of Prophet Muhammad and the comprehensiveness and beauty of Islam’s global message.

The 25 prophets and messengers mentioned in the Qur’an will be introduced in five different languages: Arabic, English, French, Hebrew, and Indonesian.

Visitors can learn about the prophets’ titles, nicknames, characteristics, morals, childhoods, relatives, the books that were revealed to them, the miracles they performed, and the languages they spoke.

The exhibition employs digital technology in different languages to transport visitors to another world, providing a cinematic experience enhanced by LED screens that take visitors to the heart of the action, as if they were accompanying the prophets through their lives.

It includes a campaign called “Islam is a Religion of Peace” and focuses on the humanitarian behavior of the prophets, especially Prophet Muhammad.

An interactive LED wall – “Your Message to Humanity” – is aimed at removing racial divides, overcoming negative cultural conflicts, and deepening the concept of people’s right to live in dignity and freedom, emphasizing the importance of coexistence.

Visitors can leave a video message that will be part of an interactive mural. It will bear the signatures of visitors and messages of love, tolerance, and acceptance of others.

The second floor of the MWL pavilion contains models of Makkah and Madinah, among other exhibits.

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Egypt to host Food Africa starting Dec. 12

DUBAI: The Muslim World League has launched an exhibition on the lives of the prophets at its Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion. “The Prophets As If You See Them” uses the latest technology to present the biographies of Islam’s prophets and messengers. It sheds light on the messages of peace, love, affection, tolerance, coexistence, and humanity…

Egypt to host Food Africa starting Dec. 12

DUBAI: The Muslim World League has launched an exhibition on the lives of the prophets at its Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion.

“The Prophets As If You See Them” uses the latest technology to present the biographies of Islam’s prophets and messengers.

It sheds light on the messages of peace, love, affection, tolerance, coexistence, and humanity that they brought to the world.

It also highlights the noble morals of Prophet Muhammad and the comprehensiveness and beauty of Islam’s global message.

The 25 prophets and messengers mentioned in the Qur’an will be introduced in five different languages: Arabic, English, French, Hebrew, and Indonesian.

Visitors can learn about the prophets’ titles, nicknames, characteristics, morals, childhoods, relatives, the books that were revealed to them, the miracles they performed, and the languages they spoke.

The exhibition employs digital technology in different languages to transport visitors to another world, providing a cinematic experience enhanced by LED screens that take visitors to the heart of the action, as if they were accompanying the prophets through their lives.

It includes a campaign called “Islam is a Religion of Peace” and focuses on the humanitarian behavior of the prophets, especially Prophet Muhammad.

An interactive LED wall – “Your Message to Humanity” – is aimed at removing racial divides, overcoming negative cultural conflicts, and deepening the concept of people’s right to live in dignity and freedom, emphasizing the importance of coexistence.

Visitors can leave a video message that will be part of an interactive mural. It will bear the signatures of visitors and messages of love, tolerance, and acceptance of others.

The second floor of the MWL pavilion contains models of Makkah and Madinah, among other exhibits.

Continue Reading
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