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Lebanon: Retailers to Shut Down amid Debilitating Crisis

Lebanon: Retailers to Shut Down amid Debilitating Crisis

Thursday, 2 July, 2020 - 18:00
Anti-government protesters carry Lebanese flags and burn tires as they block the main highway north of Beirut during a protest over deteriorating living conditions. EPA
Asharq Al-Awsat

Major retailers in Lebanon announced on Thursday they will temporarily shut down in the face of an increasingly volatile currency market and their inability to set prices while the Lebanese pound plunges against the dollar.

Later in the day, owners of the businesses rallied in central Beirut to denounce the government’s inability to handle a deepening economic and financial crisis, and urging others to join them.

“The company is losing and ... (the customers) think we are robbing them," Samir Saliba, owner of sportswear retailer Mike Sport, told The Associated Press. “We want a clear economic policy to know how to move forward and not buy our dollars from the black market and be humiliated with the brokers and money changers."

The protesters called on the government to resign and urged other stores to join their protest shutdown.

The Lebanese pound recorded a new low Thursday, selling at nearly 10,000 for a dollar and maintaining the downward slide that saw the national currency lose about 85% of its value over the past months.

Despite government and central bank efforts to regulate the foreign currency rate, a parallel market has thrived and inflation is soaring as the dollar becomes increasingly scarce.

Amid the tumbling pound, prices and inflation have soared. Power cuts have also increased, as the government struggles to secure fuel and diesel, while grocery stores began imposing a limit on how many items customers can buy amid a rush to hoard basic goods.

The country is experiencing an unparalleled economic meltdown, rooted in years of mismanagement and excessive public spending.

On Thursday, embattled Prime Minister Hassan Diab accused “local and external parties” of seeking to besiege Lebanon and make his government fail. He also accused internal forces he did not name of causing the currency crisis.

“The dollar game has become exposed and visible,” he told a Cabinet meeting. Diab also claimed foreign countries were “blatantly interfering in Lebanon's affairs,” aided by internal powers to “drag Lebanon into the region's conflicts.” He did not elaborate.

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