Lebanese Leaders Meet to Find Solution to Economic Crisis

Lebanon's political leaders meet to find a solution to the country's economic crisis. (Dalati & Nohra)
Lebanon's political leaders meet to find a solution to the country's economic crisis. (Dalati & Nohra)
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Lebanese Leaders Meet to Find Solution to Economic Crisis

Lebanon's political leaders meet to find a solution to the country's economic crisis. (Dalati & Nohra)
Lebanon's political leaders meet to find a solution to the country's economic crisis. (Dalati & Nohra)

Lebanon's political leaders met Monday with the aim of finding a solution to the country's economic crisis, raising concerns that more taxes will be imposed.

Lebanon has one of the world's highest public debts in the world, standing at 150% of GDP. Growth has plummeted and budget deficit reached 11% of GDP as economic activities slowed and remittances from Lebanese living abroad shrank.

The government hopes to bring down the budget deficit to 7.6 percent of the GDP this year and to 6.5 percent in 2020.

The meeting at the presidential palace is to discuss measures to be taken in the near future and as part of the 2020 draft budget.

President Michel Aoun said in a speech at the opening of the one-day session that everyone should make "sacrifices" in order to get one of the world's most indebted countries out of its problems.

"We have to unite our efforts to come out with solutions to the economic crisis that is strangling the dreams and hopes of our people," Aoun said.

No official details about the expected measures have been made public but economists who took part in preparatory talks for Monday's meeting said they included raising tax on gasoline, boosting the value added tax from 11 to 15 percent on luxury items, as well as fighting tax evasion.

The meeting came 10 days after international ratings agency Fitch downgraded Lebanon's ratings and as tensions on the border with Israel increased in recent days. Hezbollah on Sunday fired a barrage of anti-tank missiles in retaliation for an airstrike that targeted the group in Syria and an alleged Israeli drone attack south of Beirut late last month.

The recent developments have led for the first time in years for the US dollar to reach 1,560 Lebanese pounds on the black market, compared with the 1,500 that has been fixed since 1997.

Corruption-plagued Lebanon suffers from one of the world's highest debt ratios, high unemployment and little growth.

In July, Lebanon's parliament ratified a controversial austerity budget that aims to save the indebted economy.

Last month, Standard & Poor's Global Ratings maintained its long- and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings, saying the country's outlook remains negative.

In January, Moody's downgraded Lebanon's issuer ratings to Caa1 from B3 while changing the outlook to stable from negative.



Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces agreed with the United Nations on some steps to ease aid delivery in areas under its control, a member of the RSF told Reuters on Thursday.

The Sudanese army has not reached any understandings on aid delivers with the RSF, he added. It is unclear if these steps could be implemented without the army's participation.

Meanwhile, a key supply route into Sudan's Darfur region, deemed at risk of famine by a global monitor, has been cut off due to heavy rains, a World Food Program official told Reuters on Thursday.
The UN agency has described Sudan as the world's biggest hunger crisis, with the western Darfur region most at risk as Sudan's 15-month civil war that has displaced millions and sparked ethnic violence grinds on.
WFP's Country Director Eddie Rowe said thousands of tons of aid are stranded at the Tina crossing on the Chad border, prompting the body to reopen talks with the army-aligned government to open an alternative, all-weather crossing further south called Adre.
"You have these huge rivers. As I speak now, our convoy, which is supposed to move over 2000 metric tons is stranded," he told Reuters from Port Sudan. Asked on the status of the talks that resumed this week, he said: "It's 50/50.”
WFP is now seeking clearances to move a large 70-truck convoy via a little-used, over 1000 kilometer route from Port Sudan to Darfur which Rowe said will involve crossing the battle lines of both the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces and various militias.
He added that this mostly desert route has worked in the past but outside of the rainy season and that the last journey took weeks and was "fraught with a lot of challenges.”
In a separate interview, Mona Rishmawi, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan, told Reuters that she had met Darfur refugees in Chad who told her stories of escaping with virtually no water and eating grass along the route. "There's no doubt that people are starving," she said.