A man counts US dollar banknotes next to Lebanese pounds at a bureau de change in Beirut, Lebanon. File / Reuters
Nonetheless, politicians continue to wrangle over the creation of an independent cabinet of technocrats that could save the Lebanese from growing poverty and the country from collapse.
Lebanese from different horizons and horizons tell Gulf Today about their situation.
Image used for illustration purposes.
Nicole Maillard, a retired social worker, says the supermarket she frequents near her home has “no butter, powdered children’s milk, hummus, or lentils.” No subsidized oil, rice and sugar. The take out continues but the portions are smaller and the prices are higher. I asked the check if his salary had been increased. She said no. She now receives the equivalent of $ 40. We take money that we think we need for shopping and we find it is not enough. Prices go up two or three times a day. “
In 1990, at the end of 15 years of civil war, the Lebanese currency was 1,500 to the dollar. Today, the discount rate is 3,900 to the dollar and the black market rate is 10,000 to 15,000. The country’s foreign exchange reserves have halved to $ 16.7 billion in two years. and the GDP declined by 25% last year.
She continues: âThe Central Bank slows down imports, including food products and essential drugs, from 3 to 4 months by delaying permits. I stored the medicine I need last summer.
Nicole Maillard and Sherif Samaha.
Electricity is unreliable and fuel oil for generators is scarce and expensive. Middle-class couples follow the poor by having babies at home because they can’t afford a hospital or fear covid. Lebanon has suffered nearly half a million cases and 6,600 deaths from the pandemic.
âPeople are furious with warlords and politicians because there is no empathy, sympathy or understanding for the Lebanese. All they care about is finding ways to make more and more money. I stayed in Beirut during the civil war but it has never been as bad as it is now.
Sherif Samaha, owner of the modest Mayflower Hotel in Beirut, and his wife and two sons had a covid in January are not yet “100%”. He and his family have been living in the hotel since their elegant Lebanese villa was destroyed on August 4 last year when ammonium nitrate exploded in the port and devastated neighboring neighborhoods.
âI was desperate at first but didn’t give up. The house was flattened. We started from zero and we have all the nationalities of workers. I wanted them to go slow but they can’t wait to go fast because they need the money. The reconstruction will take a month to complete. To pay for the house, he brought in “fresh dollars” from abroad which can be withdrawn in the form of bank dollars. Payments in dollars are in high demand. Normal dollar savings are rationed and withdrawn in depreciating Lebanese currency.
âThe hotel is 40% occupied. Most clients stay for months. Some are on a small mission, others are expatriates who come to visit their families. We have no foreigners, no NGOs. Most of the former employees, who had dependent families, left because their wages had fallen due to the currency collapse and were replaced by young people who could survive on hotel pay. The once popular restaurant and bar are only open to hotel guests, but their custom is to keep it open.
Hamza Tahhan is a taxi driver from Adloun, an ancient village south of the port of Sidon. He owns his house and lives there with his wife and daughter. While he once made a good living taking tourists to historic sites, he only has a few recent fares, both from the airport.
One was at the Radisson Hotel in Beirut and the other at the northern border where he dropped off a Syrian expatriate who entered Syria. He and his sister occasionally receive 500 euros in aid from a brother in Germany. Many Lebanese respond to their family’s transfers abroad, but these are decreasing.
âGasoline is up 40% since last week and spare parts are maybe ten times normal,â he says.
âThere are fights in supermarkets for subsidized rice, oil and sugar. Pharmacies have gone on a one-day strike to warn the government to bring in drugs or they will shut down permanently. The smugglers bring gasoline and medicine to Syria. Her teenage daughter, Betoul, is studying online, but teachers have gone on strike online.
âIt’s not like before. We don’t have meat every day. But lebanese