Beirut, Weekly Report # 12, April 10th, 2020

Cronache dal Libano

by Yves

Beirut, 10 April.

In spite of the large majority of press reporting on Coronavirus issues this week, political tensions have now been mentioned between representatives of Saad Hariri’s Courant du Futur and the government stopping all progress on the nomination of Banque du Liban vice- governors. 

On Monday 6 April, a meeting chaired by President Aoun and Prime Minister Diab gathered most of the diplomatic representatives of countries which are part of the Group of Friends of Lebanon (Germany, China, the US, France, Italy, the UK, Russia and the Arab League, the UN and the EU) while the World Bank was also present, to confirm the request of the 11 billion promised during the last CEDRE conference (Conférence économique pour le développement par les réformes et avec les entreprises). In order to show the willingness of the government to tackle with the economic crisis, Prime Minister Hassane Diab has announced that he had decided to do an audit of the Central Bank while President Michel Aoun emphasized how costly it had been for the country to support Syrian refugees for eight years and what he expected in terms of financial support from CEDRE countries 

As planned last week, between Sunday 5 and Friday 10 April, several flights brought back over 1.000 Lebanes expatriates from Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Lagos (Nigeria), Riyad (Saudi Arabia), Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), Paris, Madrid, Kinshasa (DRC) and Istanbul. On Tuesday 7, the flights from Spain and Paris landed with seven Lebanese diagnosed with Coronavirus who had to go for 15 days in quarantine. Additional flights are planned between 10 and 13 April from Doha (Qatar), Frankfurt, Accra (Ghana), London, Rome, Dubai, Koweit City, Paris, Luanda (Angola) and Libreville (Gabon). On Monday, flights will stop in order to assess the overall health situation country wise. The priority was given to old people, to the very young and to those suffering from chronic illness as well as people for whom foreign visa had expired. Planes were equipped to allow proper precaution measures with a medical team on board while medical masks and gloves were distributed to the passengers.

On Thursday, the level of cases, since the first one on 21 Feb, has now reached 609 with 20 deaths and 62 cured. The same day, the Lebanese government has decided to further extend the state of sanitary emergency from Sunday 12 to Sunday 26 April. 

Because of this quarantine and the closure of almost all businesses, a huge increase in unemployment was reported and the specter of food insecurity has now been looming and was the subject of a number of discussions at the government. Almost half the population is now living under the level of poverty while the government has purchased 80 000 tons of wheat to distribute to the poorest segment of the population. On Thursday, the head of the government added a program of distribution of 400,000 Lebanese pounds (LL) to all poor families which should support a total of 187,000 families and will cost a total of 75 billion LL. 

In the meantime, during the week-end of 3 and 4 April, following discussions with Lebanese NGO Beit el-Baraka’s President Maya Ibrahimchah, US-Lebanese NGO Social Economic Action for Lebanon (SEAL) based in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, under the direction of Georges Bitar et Norma Haddad were able to collect one million dollars from the Lebanese American diaspora wich in liason with Lebanese Food Bank will help bring food to poor Lebanese families. This sum aims at covering the need of 50 000 families, which means approximately 175 000 persons during a month.