Lebanese President meets Lebanon’s envoy to Saudi Arabia ahead of his return

BEIRUT: A sudden upheaval in the exchange rate in Lebanon has angered citizens ahead of the legislative elections.

Economist Louis Hobeika said the turmoil should motivate people to “vote for change and not re-elect those in power”.

He told Arab News that the ruling parties had plenty of time to enact laws but did nothing.

The Lebanese pound hit a sudden low, trading at 28,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on Friday, with the country on an official holiday until Tuesday for Orthodox Easter.

The exchange rate turmoil caused a roar in the markets as people said on social media that shop owners had already started pricing products based on a rate of 30,000 Lebanese pounds for a dollar.

Protesters cut off the southern highway with burning tires, decrying deteriorating living conditions, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.

Electricité du Liban, the public electricity supplier, said on Thursday that the Deir Ammar power station had been closed. The Zahrani power plant closed last week, leaving Lebanese without power until a ship carrying a fuel delivery was unloaded and tested.

Subscription fees for private producers that are billed in dollars continue to rise.

Both plants depend exclusively on Iraqi fuel under an agreement between the two countries last August.

The state is unable to obtain dollars to import additional quantities of fuel, while the agreement to draw electricity from Jordan and gas from Egypt has not yet been implemented. .

According to the agreement with Iraq, every month, a single shipment of 40,000 tons of diesel is delivered to Lebanon, for the benefit of EDL.

The agreement expires in September and EDL had pledged to ensure “a minimum level of stability in the supply of electricity, until May 18”, that is to say after the legislative elections on May 15.

Lebanon was supposed to start importing electricity and gas from Jordan and Egypt in March, but implementation has been delayed due to the World Bank’s inability to fund both deals.

Energy Minister Walid Fayyad said he had not been officially informed by the World Bank of the decision to delay funding.

“We are in constant contact with the World Bank and the American Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, and her French counterpart Anne Grillo, and the ball is now in the court of the American administration and the World Bank to begin formal negotiations, which which is a critical step for funding,” Fayyad said Thursday.

On Friday, the U.S.-based Al-Hurra TV channel quoted a State Department spokesperson as saying the government was awaiting final contracts and financing terms from parties to ensure that plans for gas and electric utilities were consistent with US policy and address any potential sanctions issues.

Egyptian gas will be pumped to Lebanon via Jordan as well as Syria, which is subject to US sanctions under the Caesar Act.

Hobeika said that “political confusion and failure to find solutions to current problems naturally leads back to chaos”.

He added that all signs pointed to Lebanon deteriorating further, including the value of the national currency.

“There is a clear political inability to find solutions and face reality, and the best proof of this is the chaos and lackluster efforts that occurred during the parliamentary session that was held to discuss the project. capital control law.

“We are only three weeks away from the legislative elections and these discussions should be postponed until the elections are held. Until then, chaos will prevail and the national currency will depreciate further.

“This is due to the bad impression that the ruling authority has left, which will increase the demand for dollars. The worst thing the ruling parties do is try to outsmart the International Monetary Fund. They claim that they are working on reforms, but things have remained the same. Reform needs laws, and such laws do not yet exist in Lebanon.

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