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Shortage of Financial Stamps Complicates Public Transactions in Lebanon

Shortage of Financial Stamps Complicates Public Transactions in Lebanon

Monday, 2 March, 2020 - 13:15
The Lebanese central bank in Beirut. (Reuters)

State institutions and private companies in Lebanon are suffering from a shortage of official stamps that are needed to be glued onto all official transactions and company bills. The issue has led to chaos in public institutions and stripped the treasury of millions of dollars in revenues, exacerbating the financial crisis. Officials have meanwhile, distanced themselves from the issue.

The stamps shortage started weeks ago, especially after Hassan Diab’s government was granted confidence and institutions commenced regular work again after most of them had at least partially shut down during the October 17 popular uprising.

A source from the Ministry of Finance told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ministry has started to “at least partially address the crisis”. He added that they will be “printing 8 million 250 LBP stamps that would be enough for 2020, pending that the new bid on 1,000 LBP and more stamps is completed”.

This lack of stamps in ministries, state institutions, notaries and private companies has stopped thousands of transactions and has exacerbated the public resentment towards the state’s apathy towards people’s suffering.

A source from the Ministry of Finance has revealed that the ministry has “attracted offers to print 8 million 1,000 LBP stamps, but until this is over, it has found a temporary solution that would allow some institutions to collect the price of the stamp without actually placing it on the transaction and providing a receipt with the stamp’s value.” The solution has been adopted in real estate, car registration transactions and other important deals that cannot be postponed.

Private companies have sounded the alarm after the could no longer issue any bill unless a stamp was placed onto it for the treasury to collect its value. A source informed on the crisis mentioned that “there is a real problem with the ministry collecting financial dues, bills and the value added tax because companies are unable to issue these bills without stamps”.

The Lebanese state’s revenue has receded to less than half after the popular uprising started as citizens refrained from paying due bills, whether electricity or water, car and automobile maintenance and even landline bills. The revenues from stamps, however, remained the same as people needed them for official transactions.

On Sunday, mayors in the northern Akkar region brought this crisis up with the MP Hadi Hbeish and raised their complaints to him about the delay in their work and citizens’ transactions.

“We have to stand by our people in these difficult and harsh circumstances,” Hbeish said, acknowledging that the shortage of stamps was hindering transaction.

He called on the Finance Minister to resolve this crisis as soon as possible, promising to follow up on the issue, saying the people already have to contend with the health, economic and psychological crises and can do without another one.

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