Beirut: Public transport drivers protest soaring prices, living conditions
In a country where the currency has lost more than 90% of its value, public transport drivers block several roads, for the second time in three weeks, to protest the surging gas prices.
Public transport and trucks drivers blocked the main entrances to Beirut today, on Wednesday, in addition to many other big Lebanese cities, in a general strike against the soaring fuel prices and to call for better living conditions.
The protest lasted from the early morning hours till 14:00 local time. The leader of the public transport drivers' union, Bassam Tleis, told the Al-Manar Lebanese news outlet that the protests and blocking roads might continue on the next two days unless the cabinet led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets their demands.
The protesters demanded an increase in public transport tariffs to 64,000 LBP. The strike comes as the government was to hold a session to discuss the current issues, and the drivers' demands were reportedly not included on the agenda of the cabinet meeting, despite the fuel crisis being a priority, not just to these drivers, but to many who still receive an unacceptable minimum wage of 675 000 LPB, which is equal to around 28$.
Despite previous protests, the demands of the union have not been answered. Even teachers of public and private schools took part to demand higher salaries amid the ongoing economic crisis which has led to the rise of the inflation rate and the escalation of prices, leaving a large part of the country’s population below the poverty line.
This was the second time in three weeks unions held strikes, which forced schools, universities, and many businesses to close, as many rely on taxis, buses, or minivans for their daily transportation from their houses to the workplace, due to the fact that few have access to public transportation, which lacks innovation and efficiency in the first place.
Lebanon needs $12-15 bn for economic recovery: BDL chief
Lebanon requires $12-15 billion to start its process of economic recovery and support its fast-diminishing foreign currency reserves, BDL governor Riad Salameh said Tuesday.
Lebanon is facing an unprecedented economic crisis, which the World Bank ranked among the top 10 worst economic crises in the world since the mid-nineteenth century.
Over 80% of the population lives in poverty, and the national currency, the Lebanese pound, has lost more than 90% of its black market value as Beirut is yet to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund amid a political crisis.
"Our quota in the International Monetary Fund is four billion," Salameh said.
"The mandatory reserves are around $12.5 billion," that the central bank can't spend, Salameh said. He also explained that an additional $1.5 billion in reserves had been freed up for central bank spending.
Lebanon's mandatory reserves were $32 billion before the economic crisis started in the country.