A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For December 01/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 45th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For December 01/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 45th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
December 01/2019


Tites For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 01/2019
Uprising Enters Day 45, Police Release Detained Female Protester
Report: Govt. Formation Could Initiate CEDRE Aid at Paris Meeting
Lebanon petrol stations suspend strike
Gas Station Owners Suspend Strike
Petrol station strike paralyses Lebanon as crisis deepens
Students Against Conflicts: A march for peace
Joint women’s demonstration from Ashrafieh, Khandak Ghamik
“Lebanon will not be alone,” says Zaki
Boustani reiterates pledge to import Fuel on Monday
Rahi upon returning from Cairo: We pray for our officials to abandon their rigid stands, follow the path of virtue and goodness
Qamati: We adhere to Hariri and there are positive windows with the arrival of the international message
Bteich meets with a delegation of bakery owners
Symbolic stand in front of the Iraqi Embassy in solidarity with the Iraqi demonstrators
Protests against refugee integration outside EU Embassy


The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 01/2019
Uprising Enters Day 45, Police Release Detained Female Protester
Naharnet/November 30/2019
Police released on Saturday from the Ashrafieh Police Station in Beirut a female protester detained a day earlier against the backdrop of a dispute with security forces. Dana Hammoud, was released early on Saturday where dozens had gathered outside the station demanding her release.
Her parents, lawyer and a group of activists denounced that she was kept overnight arguing that she did not commit a “major offense.”She was arrested during a confrontation with police near Beirut’s Central Bank in Hamra where a group of protesters were gathering close to a gas station complaining about a fuel shortage. After her release, Hammoud said she had signed a pledge to respect the security forces. She said: “Rest assured that whoever touches me, I will respond. I don’t have any regrets about what I have done.”On social media, a video circulated showing Hammoud in a confrontation with an officer who pushed her to the ground and detained her as she resisted back. The Internal Security Forces issued a statement saying that Hammoud was trying to prevent a police vehicle from leaving the area which compelled for their intervention.On the other hand, protests against the political class continue. In the northern city of Tripoli protesters rallied near the Qadisha Electricity company and the Bahsas station, the National News Agency said. Demonstrators also protested against an increase in the prices of goods rallying near the Spinneys supermarket headquarters in Dbayeh.
In Akkar, protesters set up tents in the Akkar plain, at the Kfarmelki junction affirming that their protests will not stop until the uprising meets its demands. More than a month into unprecedented anti-government protests, Lebanon is facing a dual political and economic crisis. The government stepped down on October 29, less than two weeks after the first demonstration, but the country’s deeply divided political parties have failed to form a new one.

Report: Govt. Formation Could Initiate CEDRE Aid at Paris Meeting
Naharnet/November 30/2019
France reportedly seeks to call for a conference of the International Support Group for Lebanon before mid-December manifesting readiness to launch the CEDRE grants if Lebanon forms a government, An-Nahar daily reported on Saturday.The daily quoted French “presidential” sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, they said: “The convention aims to urge Lebanese authorities to accelerate the formation of a new government according to the international standards expressed lately, mainly composed of competent specialists and members of the popular movement, and committed to structural reforms and fighting corruption.”The sources pointed out that “if Lebanese parties respond to these proposals, the international support group for Lebanon will provide the financial support and assistance that Lebanon urgently needs and will accelerate the implementation of CEDRE conference decisions.”
Consultations continue between Paris and organizers concerned with the International Support Group to determine the deadline for the meeting, said the daily. The meeting reportedly is to be chaired by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in the presence of Secretary Generals of the participating ministries and concerned countries of the group, according to the daily. Donors at the CEDRE conference last year in Paris pledged $11 billion in aid and soft loans to Lebanon which are conditional upon the implementation of reforms that Lebanon committed to. But since October 17, Lebanon has been grappled with nationwide protests over widespread corruption and mismanagement that worsened Lebanon’s worst economic and financial crises since the 1975-90 civil war ended, as did the resignation of the government late last month. Although Hariri resigned his government on Oct. 29, Aoun has not yet set a date for binding consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs to name a new premier.

Lebanon petrol stations suspend strike
ReutersSaturday, 30 November 2019
Lebanon’s petrol stations syndicate chief announced on Friday night that the union will suspend its strike starting tonight, state news agency (NNA) quoted Sami al-Brax as saying. Lebanese daily Al-Nahar cited al-Brax saying the union was suspending its strike to hold talks with authorities and added the syndicate would have a meeting on Monday. The union had called for an open-ended strike starting Thursday because of losses incurred from having to buy dollars on a parallel market, the main source of hard currency during the country’s economic crisis.

Gas Station Owners Suspend Strike
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 30/2019
Owners of gas stations in Lebanon suspended a one-day strike on Saturday that paralyzed the country and drove angry Lebanese to block in protest the highways with their vehicles creating traffic jams. Sami Brax, the head of the Syndicates of Gas Station Owners, announced the “suspension of the strike after holding contacts with the Energy Ministry,” said LBCI. On Thursday, gas stations began an open-ended strike as owners are demanding that they be allowed to hike prices saying they are losing money because of the shortage of dollars in the market. The price of the dollar has dropped 40 percent on the black market after it was stable at 1,507 pounds to the dollar since 1997. In Beirut and several areas across the country, motorists parked their cars in the middle of the road, saying they ran out of petrol. In other areas angry protesters blocked roads to express their anger against closure of gas stations.
The strike came as the nation grapples with nationwide protests that began Oct. 17 over widespread corruption and mismanagement. The protests have worsened Lebanon’s worst economic and financial crises since the 1975-90 civil war ended, as did the resignation of the government late last month.
Although PM Saad Hariri resigned his government on Oct. 29, President Michel Aoun has not yet set a date for binding consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs to name a new premier. The protests were initially sparked by new taxes but quickly evolved into calls for the entire political elite to step aside.

Petrol station strike paralyses Lebanon as crisis deepens
Aljazeera/November 30/2019
Angry motorists blocked roads with their vehicles in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon on Friday, creating traffic jams to protest against a strike by owners of petrol stations demanding an increase in gasoline prices as the local currency drops and the nation slides deeper into a financial crisis.
The road closures around Lebanon came as President Michel Aoun headed a meeting of the country’s top economic officials to discuss the rapidly deteriorating economic and financial situation in the country. Nationwide protests that began on October 17 over widespread corruption and mismanagement have worsened Lebanon’s most serious economic and financial crises since the 1975-90 civil war ended, as did the resignation of the government late last month. Although Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government on October 29, Aoun has not yet set a date for binding consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs to name a new prime minister. The protests were initially sparked by new taxes but quickly evolved into calls for the entire political elite to step aside. Friday’s meeting was attended by the ministers of economy and finance, the central bank’s chief, the head of the banking association as well as the economic adviser of the outgoing prime minister.
Highly indebted country
Lebanon is one of the world’s most highly indebted countries, and the country’s banking sector has imposed unprecedented capital control amid a widespread shortage of dollars.
Lebanon protests
Since the protest began in October, the price of the dollar has dropped 40 percent on the black market after it was stable at 1,507 pounds to the dollar since 1997 [Nabil Mounzer/EPA] People have not been allowed in recent weeks to withdraw as much as they want from their bank accounts. The price of the dollar has dropped 40 percent on the black market after it was stable at 1,507 pounds to the dollar since 1997.During the meeting, Aoun put forward suggestions to come out of the crisis and it was decided that the central bank governor would take necessary measures regarding coordination with banks to issue circulars to preserve stability, said a statement read by Salim Sfeir, the chairman of the Association of Banks in Lebanon. “The meeting discussed financial and banking conditions that the country is passing through that has begun to negatively affect most sectors,” the statement said, adding that Lebanon will remain committed to its free-market economy. US dollar shortage and Lebanon’s economic crisis. The shortage of liquidity has led to the collapse of businesses and over previous months scores of institutions have closed and thousands of employees were either laid off or had their salaries cut.
Petrol stations began an open-ended strike on Thursday, with owners demanding that they be allowed to increase prices, saying they are losing money because of the shortage of dollars in the market. In Beirut and several areas across the country, motorists parked their cars in the middle of roads, saying they had run out of petrol. In other areas angry protesters blocked roads to express their anger against the closure of the petrol stations. Politicians, meanwhile, have failed to agree on the shape and form of a new government. Hariri had insisted on heading a government of technocrats, while his opponents, including Hezbollah, want a cabinet made up of both experts and politicians.
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis said he met on Friday with central bank governor Riad Salameh and discussed with him measures “urgently needed to stop the further deepening” of the economic crisis and to increase the ability of the banking sector to cope with the pressures.
“Formation of a credible and competent government that can regain the trust of the people and of the international partners of #Lebanon is the priority,” Kubis posted on social media.

Joint women’s demonstration from Ashrafieh, Khandak Ghamik
NNA /November 30/2019
A women’s rally set out from Tabaris this afternoon, with most of its participants being mothers from the area of Ashrafieh, carrying roses and chanting the national anthem. “We do not want sectarianism; we want national unity,” was one of the prominent slogans raised by the protesters.
The women demonstrators were joined by their fellow protesters who set out in a similar women’s march from the area of Khandak el-Ghammik in Beirut.

“Lebanon will not be alone,” says Zaki
NNA /November 30/2019
Arab League Assistant Secretary-General, Hossam Zaki, stressed Saturday in an interview with “Sawt El Mada’ Radio Station that “Lebanon will not be left alone, and its assistance is based on its readiness to respond.”
“Arab funds are ready to help, but there should be a responsible government, for the formation of the government is the platform in this endeavor,” he emphasized. “Lebanon is going through a pivotal phase, which we hope will be for the better and that the political step would precede the economic step towards a solution,” Zaki corroborated. He added: “The economic situation in Lebanon is very stressful and we are working to monitor the measures that can be taken, and initiatives will be presented when the exploration process is completed.” “The Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, has asked me to meet with various Lebanese parties in order to help in overcoming the crisis,” Zaki concluded.

Boustani reiterates pledge to import Fuel on Monday
NNA /November 30/2019
Caretaker Minister of Energy and Water, Nada Boustani, re-confirmed Saturday her previous promise that “the Lebanese state will import 10% of the market’s needs of fuel, which will be sold in Lebanese pounds on Monday.”
Boustani blamed the Central Bank’s plan for the energy sector, saying: “What is happening today in the hydrocarbon sector is due to a mechanism set by the Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh without coordination with the Ministry of Energy and Water.” However, she concluded that “the continued rise of the lira against the dollar will restore the crisis.”

Rahi upon returning from Cairo: We pray for our officials to abandon their rigid stands, follow the path of virtue and goodness
NNA /November 30/2019
On his return from the Egyptian capital, Cairo, where he attended the Catholic Patriarchs of the East Council meetings, Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi pursued today the Rosary prayer in Bkirki, with the participation of believers in Lebanon and the world, dedicated to Lebanon’s salvation from its current crisis. In his homily, the Patriarch prayed for the country’s officials to “get out of their state of deadlock, abandon their rigid stances and take the path of goodness and righteousness.”
Al-Rahi prayed for the souls of the fallen martyrs to rest in peace and for the Lord to inspire compassion and devotion in the hearts of state officials. “Perhaps this would drive the conscience of those responsible for the growing devastation at all levels…who stand as idols with no feelings and without realizing what is happening,” he said. Rahi called for “intensifying prayers for them [officials] so that God can move their consciences and free their wills, so they would understand the meaning of responsibility.”
He added: “Responsibility is not a boastful matter, but rather a service and selflessness for the common good.”The Patriarch concluded by indicating that the Church is supporting the people’s civil movement in wake of its conviction that “from this civic movement, a new Lebanon will be born.”

Qamati: We adhere to Hariri and there are positive windows with the arrival of the international message
NNA /November 30/2019
Caretaker State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Mahmoud Qamati, expressed Saturday commitment to PM Saad Hariri to head the new government, in light of his Sunni representation and his role in taking responsibility for the crisis prevailing in the country.
“Positive windows to the solution have opened in wake of the international community’s message to various political parties in the country, including more than one international side,” Qamati said in an interview with “Sawt El Mada” Radio Station earlier today. He stressed that “there will be no street against another; for every street is our street and we agree to all its livelihood demands.”Qamati considered that the financial policies that have been adopted for the last thirty years and more are responsible for the crisis we are living today, in addition to the external pressure on Lebanon. “Lebanon is required today to embrace the displaced Syrians and the resettlement of the Palestinians within the deal of the century, whereby Lebanon’s rejection of these resolutions does not satisfy Washington, which is why it is putting economic pressure on us,” he explained. On the issue of naming the new prime minister, Qamati said: “The decision to postpone the parliamentary consultations is logical and wise, in order to avoid problems.” “There are international threats to any government of one color, so we do not want to drag the country towards any risks. We do not deny that the presence of PM Hariri or any figure of his choice helps Lebanon due to international acceptance,” he asserted. Qamati reiterated his support for any reform measures by the government, calling on Hariri to convene the cabinet in a session that would help in easing the situation as much as possible, and increase the level of optimism among the Lebanese.

Bteich meets with a delegation of bakery owners
NNA /November 30/2019
Caretaker Economy and Trade Minister, Mansour Bteich, met Saturday with a delegation of bakery owners, who came to raise their demands and discuss the difficulties they are facing due to the rise in cost of products and the existence of a two-dollar exchange rate. Bteich reassured the delegation of finding mechanisms to preserve their rights and to protect citizens in their daily-living needs, without burdening them with additional costs, especially in the price of bread. It was agreed to hold another meeting early next week to look into possible solutions that would ensure a balance between the interests of bakery owners and consumers and their food safety.

Symbolic stand in front of the Iraqi Embassy in solidarity with the Iraqi demonstrators
NNA /November 30/2019
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Iraqi Embassy in Ramlet al-Baida in Beirut this evening, in a symbolic solidarity stand with the Iraqi demonstrators, holding banners expressing their support and lighting candles for the souls of the fallen martyrs, NNA correspondent reported.

Protests against refugee integration outside EU Embassy
NNA /November 30/2019
Lebanon Uprise” Association organized a rally in front of the European Union Embassy on Saturday, to demand the international community to ensure the return of Syrian and Palestinian refugees to their countries. In this context, the participants sent an open letter to the EU Ambassador to Lebanon, Ralph Tarraf, highlighting “the serious damage this integration can cause to Lebanon”. “In fact, with about two million refugees, Lebanon has the highest concentration of refugees in the world (40% of its population), while the Lebanese themselves are no longer able to support themselves,” the letter read. “In the midst of the severe economic crisis in Lebanon, where the unemployment rate has exceeded 37% … the return of refugees to their country has become a necessity,” the letter added.

Titles For The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01/2019
Students Against Conflicts: A march for peace/Paula Naoufal/Annahar/November 30/2019
Iranian regime’s priority is ensuring its survival and quashing regional protests/Raghida Dergham/The National/November 30/2019
Time is running out to save Lebanon from disaster/Hafed Al-Ghwell/Arab News/November 30/2019
Enemies of Lebanon 1 of 3: The Monetary System/Elie Aoun/November 30/2019

The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01/2019
Students Against Conflicts: A march for peace
Paula Naoufal/Annahar/November 30/2019
Such marches are essential because they show the power of the youth and that students are the the root of the revolution.
BEIRUT: From Banque Du Liban to Riad Solh and under the slogan of “students’ refusal of strife,” various student organisations and student clubs took part in a march on Saturday, November 30.
Participating groups included: LAU Ghayir movement, ULS civil society, LAU journalism club, LAU social work club, AUB Palestinian cultural club, AUB secular club, MADA network, USJ secular club, LAU human rights network, NDU’s independent list, “Nehna Tollab,” and LAU’s Entrepreneurship club.
They marched with candles and Lebanese flags while chanting anti-corruptions slogans mainly focusing on the economic situation and the central bank’s performance.
Lynn Al Shami, member of LAU’s Ghayir Movement, stated that such marches are crucial to show student’s unity against the government’s actions.
“The future is for the current students and we want to ensure an ameliorated future for ourselves. We do not want to immigrate. Additionally, we are the pulse of the revolution and the ones that are most affected by the consequences of the current economic situation,” she told Annahar. “We do not want to repeat our parent’s mistakes.”
Rami Abu Shakra, NDU student and activist, stated that “the reason for participating is self evident. We all have to be present in the streets. Lots of people were talking about how they thought our uprising was dying out. But around the second week, all the student marches that happened across the country in the streets, squares, and campuses, gave them hope. We convinced people that this uprising was capable of real change because there’s an entire new generation that’s willing to fight for it stubbornly and relentless”.
Maria Romeo Youssef, activist in “Nehna Tollab,” stated that the group has been participating in this march for many reasons. First, to remind everyone that this revolution did not die and will never die until they get all their demands fulfilled. Second, because they believe that they should stand against the violence they have witnessed on the streets in the past week to prove that their unity and the peacefulness of this revolution conquers everything. And third, because of their hope of a better future in this country.
She also added that “Nehna tollab is a group of students from many universities, backgrounds and religious groups, who happened to meet each other and bounded during this revolution. Uniting and collaborating with other student groups is a goal of ours. We want to peacefully fight for our rights and the right of every lebanese citizen. After all, students are the pulse of the revolution.”Verena El Amil, president of USJ secular club, also said that such marches are essential because they show the power of the youth and that students are the the root of the revolution.

Iranian regime’s priority is ensuring its survival and quashing regional protests
Raghida Dergham/The National/November 30/2019
Tehran is banking on Lebanese protesters running out of steam while at home and in Iraq, the situation is more complex
Iranian leaders and their allies are counting on stamina to weather the storm and are hoping demonstrators’ energy and fervour will wane as the year draws to a close. In Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, the Iranian regime’s priority is securing its survival and preventing the three uprisings from bearing fruit by any means necessary – whatever the cost.
Russia remains committed to its Iranian ally and is confident of its promise to stop the spread of instability. What is new is the shift in the European position with regards to Iran. The Europeans have run out of patience with Iran’s violations, not just in terms of the 2015 nuclear deal but also the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s direct participation in staging riots, and stoking sectarianism and violence against peaceful protests in Lebanon, from its outposts in Syria and the Bekaa Valley.
This has made countries like Germany draw closer to the US position, despite previous opposition, causing concern and anger among the ranks of the Iranian leadership. A few days ago, German daily Der Spiegel reported that the nation’s interior ministry had requested an inquiry into Hezbollah’s activities, with an agreement reached by the government in Berlin to impose a total ban on the organisation in Germany next week. The report said Germany would treat members of Hezbollah members as it treats ISIS.
Iran has decided to take a rigid, escalatory and uncompromising approach
For 18 months, US ambassador to Berlin Richard Grenell sought to persuade European states to adopt the American perspective on Iranian and Hezbollah activities; the new policy in Germany bears his hallmarks. Iran will undoubtedly be furious. The leadership in Tehran spared no effort in convincing the Europeans to push for exemptions from US sanctions but has since been steadily let down as European banks and businesses refused to deal with the regime, fearing they too would be sanctioned. The Iranians have used a combination of blackmail and threats, and a pattern of escalation and de-escalation, aware that a US-European alliance would further increase their isolation. Meanwhile, as protests rage on home turf, sources say the regime in Tehran is determined to reject any dialogue with demonstrators. Iran’s leaders are convinced the protests in Lebanon will die down in a matter of weeks. In short, Iran has decided to take a rigid, escalatory and uncompromising approach.
The Europeans are concerned about a possible Iranian assault of the level and magnitude of the attack on Saudi Aramco facilities. They are also concerned about Iran clamping down on demonstrations at home and dragging the Lebanese uprising into violence by engineering chaos that would consolidate Hezbollah’s control of the country. Such actions would inevitably impact relations.
Berlin is resentful of Iranian threats and blackmails against Germany, France and Britain, all signatories of the nuclear deal. The German government believes the time has come to publicly call out Iranian violations of the deal instead of continuing to try to salvage it. After Us President Donald Trump walked out last year, the deal can no longer be revived, given the inability of European powers to compel businesses to trade under the Instex special purpose vehicle designed to bypass sanctions. Iran’s nuclear enrichment actions and ballistic missile programme have driven another nail into the deal’s coffin. The IRGC’s involvement in the suppression of protests in the region could mobilise public opinion in Europe against the Iranian regime’s authoritarianism and expansionism.
Mr Trump is said to be annoyed by attempts by French President Emmanuel Macron to ingratiate himself as mediator with Tehran while suggesting lifting sanctions. The source said: A US source said the administration was willing to talk but negotiations would not be conditional on lifting or easing sanctions.
The Trump administration will continue using sanctions as a tool to tame, isolate, contain and punish the regime in Iran. If European pressures on the regime increase, its isolation and financial hardship will only deepen. But the question is: what will its leaders then do?
In Lebanon, the Iranian leadership thinks the crisis will not last longer than another month due to fatigue and the impasse that protests have reached
In Iraq, the situation looks extremely complex and difficult for Iran, with no light at the end of the tunnel as protests continue and the death toll rises. Iranians are hurting themselves and their neighbour by refusing to allow Iraq to become a normal country. The regime’s logic does not allow for a withdrawal from Iraq or the disbanding of the Popular Mobilisation Forces. The bloodshed will continue and the risk of a US-Iranian military confrontation will increase, either because of deliberate provocation by the Iranians to draw Mr Trump into conflict or as a result of an incident involving US forces in Iraq.
In Lebanon, the Iranian leadership thinks the crisis will not last longer than another month due to fatigue and the impasse that protests have reached. The Iranian leadership is betting protesters’ endurance will decrease as the ruling class plays a waiting game.
So far Washington has succeeded in ensuring European support for the demands of the uprising, led by the need to form a government of technocrats rather than politicians affiliated to traditional parties under the dominance of Hezbollah and the IRGC.
The situation is now very delicate. If Iran succeeds in suppressing the Lebanese uprising, the ruling class will return with a vengeance and retaliate against those who dared to question them and call for them to be held accountable.
Western powers are waking up to the fact the key to protecting Lebanon from chaos and total collapse is to pressure and punish Iran and its proxies. But accountability will take time. It is therefore necessary to be patient and think pragmatically and strategically if the uprising is to achieve its lofty goals.
*Raghida Dergham is the founder and executive chairwoman of the Beirut Institute

Time is running out to save Lebanon from disaster
Hafed Al-Ghwell/Arab News/November 30/2019
Crowds swell with boiling frustrations. The tension is palpable. Protesters gather on the streets, peacefully for now. It is happening on almost every continent; in fact, if this year is remembered for anything, it will be the unprecedented number of protest movements illustrating the gaping chasms in our increasingly polarized world. Whether it is climate change, war, human rights, immigration, politics, economics or society as a whole, ever widening gaps in ideology, income, race and religion have served only to incense the marginalized.
Beirut and other parts of Lebanon are awash with some of these themes. Weak but intransigent government and public impatience are now threatening to unleash the true cost of a political class resistant to change, and teetering on the brink of collapse.
A dollar crunch has sent the Lebanese lira into freefall; it has lost about 20 percent of its value on the black market, and the hard currency shortage will lead to greater inflationary pressure on food and essential goods, most of which are imported.
These woes add to a growing list of grievances that have sent many Lebanese pouring on to the streets to demand change. Half-salaries, lost jobs, empty shops and small business owners considering permanent closure combine with frustrations from electricity shortages, poor infrastructure and undrinkable water. Corruption is rampant, exacerbated by grossly unequal wealth distribution; about 3,000 people together take the same share of national income as half the population.
Lebanese banks that were once the pillar of the economy operate under tight restrictions to limit withdrawals of dwindling deposits. Billions in funds have already left the country since protests began in October, compounding a local banking crisis that began in 2011, when the porous border with Syria led to an influx of 1.5 million refugees. That put downward pressure on tourism and created surging demand for public utilities such as water and electricity.
Loan defaults in the private sector have also skyrocketed; the rate is greater than in the US during the 2008 financial crisis. That does not bode well for the third-most indebted country in the world. Interest obligations ultimately consume nearly half of public revenues, which are already squeezed by an enormous payroll covering some 300,000 public employees, about 13 percent of the workforce.
Economic woes add to a growing list of grievances that have sent many Lebanese pouring on to the streets to demand change.
It is not all bad news; Lebanon repaid a $1.5 billion Eurobond this week, buying time to tackle the gigantic tasks of setting the country back on course. However, without a prime minister and politicians unable to agree on who will succeed Saad Hariri, there is hardly enough time until the next mandatory repayment in March 2020. In addition, protesters are unlikely to be assuaged by promises of reform from a political class they wish to remove from the corridors of power in favor of a more technocratic leadership.
Higher bond yields, increasingly illiquid markets, crippled banks, excessive borrowing, an unsustainable public-sector wage bill, corruption, gross wealth inequality and political paralysis are all conspiring to deliver Lebanon a day of reckoning. Half-measures or governing through a crisis with shoddy, ill conceived quick fixes will not work. The average Lebanese will need to trust the government again, meaning the current leadership will have to co-sign their own removal — a non-starter for a political elite not swayed by swelling protests. In addition, any meaningful reform will probably target the ballooning debt and deficit via more taxes on the banks and significant reductions in public sector jobs. This will inevitably pit civil servants, loath to lose precious incomes, and banks, loath to reduce profits, against a public that has run out of patience.
Lebanon’s options are not easy. No amount of populist rhetoric can deliver on much-needed objectives without encountering resistance from entrenched interests. The fact that the prime minister’s office is vacant is unhelpful, but there is a silver lining. Most Lebanese agree that a technocratic, competent, and non-partisan government is needed, not only to craft solutions and implement them, but also to restore trust and faith in public office. Any incoming prime minister must also subscribe to this ideal beyond lip-service, and actually establish the entities to address the crisis and give them the authority to do so. They must also be prepared to face stiff opposition to any plans to rationalize the public sector to cut the deficit. This means having feasible plans for greater privatization, with a special emphasis on leaving as few unemployed former civil servants as possible.
Ultimately, they will also need to address the elephant in the room that is runaway public debt, which will probably not go down well with the local banks. More taxation is one thing, but what is needed is a sustainable approach to servicing outstanding debt, which may require debt restructuring that will allow the government more time to achieve tax revenue goals and get the deficit under control. The latter will certainly reap the benefits of unlocking up to $11 billion in loans and grants pledged to Lebanon by international donors.
However, time is short. The longer it takes to find Hariri’s replacement, the more likely it is that Lebanon faces a worthless currency, runaway inflation and mass protests that would make the Greek debt crisis look like a cakewalk.
Hafed Al-Ghwell is a non-resident senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Institute at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is also senior adviser at the international economic consultancy Maxwell Stamp and at the geopolitical risk advisory firm Oxford Analytica, a member of the Strategic Advisory Solutions International Group in Washington DC and a former adviser to the board of the World Bank Group. Twitter: @HafedAlGhwell

Enemies of Lebanon 1 of 3: The Monetary System
Elie Aoun/November 30/2019
The Lebanese government does not own the Lebanese Pound (or Lira). If it owned the currency, it would not borrow it and pay interest on it.
One main reason why the monetary system is an enemy because the Lebanese government abandoned its exclusive privilege to issue money and vested that privilege in the Bank of Lebanon (Decree 13513, Article 47). In other words, the government gave the Bank the right to issue money, loan that money back to the government, and then charge it interest – at a time when the government could have issued its own money without paying any interest.
The “Bank of Lebanon” was created pursuant to Lebanese Law Decree 13513 of August 1, 1963 (Code of Money and Credit). The Decree was signed by President Fouad Chehab and Prime Minister Rachid Karameh (who was also acting as a Finance Minister). The Lebanese Parliament did not vote on or approve the creation of the Bank.
Not only does the Bank charge interest on the Bank’s loans to the State, the Bank does not pay interest to the State on the State’s deposits in the Bank (Article 86).
Not only has the government abandoned to the Bank its exclusive authority to print money, the government has also exempted the Bank from all taxes, imposts and rates whatsoever, already enforced or likely to be enforced for the benefit of the State, municipal corporations or other organizations (Article 118).
WHO OWNS THE LEBANESE CURRENCY?
The name “Republic of Lebanon” is not printed on any of the Lebanese currency notes. What is printed is the name “Banque du Liban” (Bank of Lebanon). Some may ask, is not the Bank owned by the Lebanese government? The answer is no.
Firstly, Decree 13513 does not say that the Bank is a branch of the Lebanese government. Instead, the Decree’s Article 13 states that the Bank is a juridical person of public law (a legal entity similar to a corporation) vested with financial autonomy.
Secondly, the Decree is written in a manner that reflects a relationship between two independent entities (rather than the Bank being a branch of the government). For example, Article 74 requires of the government to provide a protection (military guard) for the Bank’s establishment free of charge. No such language would have been used in the Decree if the Bank is a branch of the government.
Thirdly, Article 113 dictates how net profits are shared between the Bank and the government – such as 50/50 basis on certain occasions and even 80/20 (80% to the Treasury; 20% to the Bank) under some other conditions. It is doubtful that this profit-sharing formula has been properly implemented. If the Bank is a part of the government, all the net profits would have been the government’s share, not divided with the Bank.
The questions are: If the Bank is a legal entity, who owns that entity? In what manner has its profits been used or distributed since 1963 until now? Would the government revoke Article 47 and restore its exclusive privilege to issue money without paying interest for it? Why opening a new bank requires applying for registration with the Central Bank (Article 135) and not with the Ministry of Finance?
Apparently, no politician would have the courage to discuss these issues.