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Lebanese Protest in Beirut over Deteriorating Economic Crisis

Lebanese Protest in Beirut over Deteriorating Economic Crisis

Sunday, 29 September, 2019 - 09:30
Lebanese protest in Beirut against the deteriorating economic crisis. (NNA)

Hundreds of Lebanese protested in Beirut on Sunday against an economic crisis that has worsened over the past two weeks, with a drop in the local currency for the first time in more than two decades.

Some of the protesters in the capital’s downtown blasted Lebanese political leaders, blaming them for widespread corruption in the country of four million.

Lebanon has one of the highest debt ratios in the world standing at $86 billion or more than 150% of the country's gross domestic product.

Last week, the local currency reached 1,650 pounds to the dollar at exchange shops after it had been stable at 1,500 since 1997.

The protesters gathered Sunday in the central Martyrs Square then marched toward the government headquarters were riot police were deployed.

The National News Agency (NNA) reported scuffles between them and the security forces.

"The people want to bring down the regime," some of the protesters chanted as riot police stopped them from marching toward the government headquarters. The slogan echoed that of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

Other protesters chanted "peaceful" and tried to stop the young men who clashed with security forces.

The protest was called for by activists from the civil society, as well as individuals.

NNA reported that angry protesters briefly closed the road in the eastern town of Masnaa that leads to the Syrian capital of Damascus. The agency also reported road closures in the northeastern regions of Baalbek and Hermel.

Despite tens of billions of dollars spent since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990, Lebanon still has crumbling infrastructure including daily hours-long electricity cuts, trash piles in the streets and often sporadic, limited water supplies from the state-owned water company.

Last week, amid fears that there will be an open-ended strike at gas stations, people waited for long hours to get vehicles filled.

Because of the shortage in hard currency, there have been complaints by importers of fuel, medicine and wheat, that they buy the products from abroad paying in US dollars and when they sell in Lebanon they do so in the local currency.

Lebanon's central bank is scheduled to issue instructions to regulate ways to fund imports of fuel, medicine and wheat on Tuesday.

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