BEIRUT (AP) – Shops are closing, companies are going bankrupt, pharmacies are being emptied with shelves. In Lebanon, there are outbreaks of supermarkets these days as shoppers struggle to obtain subsidized milk powder and rice cooking oil.
Like almost every Lebanese, Nisrine Taha’s life has turned upside down in the last year under the weight of the country’s devastating economic crisis. Anxiety about the future eats him.
Five months ago, he was fired from a real estate company where he had worked for many years. Her 21-year-old daughter is unable to find work, forcing the family to rely on her husband’s monthly salary, which has lost 90% of its value due to the collapse of the national currency.
The family has not been able to pay the rent for seven months, and Taha worries that their landlord’s patience will not last forever. As the price of meat and chicken went up beyond their means, they changed their diet.
“Everything is very expensive,” he said.
The Taha family is among hundreds of thousands of low-income, middle-class Lebanese who have suddenly found themselves in poverty due to the crisis that began in late 2019. The culmination of decades of corruption by the greedy political class, which has engulfed almost every sector of the economy.
The Lebanese pound has lost more than 25% of its value in recent weeks alone. Inflation and commodity prices have risen sharply in a country that imports more than 80% of its commodities. The purchasing power of salaries has sharply decreased, the savings have evaporated. All over the coronavirus և ական A huge explosion in the port of Beirut last August damaged some parts of the capital.
According to the World Bank, more than half of the population now lives in poverty, while the unresolved political crisis heralds a further collapse.
Alia Mubayed, CEO of Ff Eferis, a diversified financial services company, says that the “sharp contraction of growth combined with hyperinflation և devaluation” has pushed more people into precarious employment, raised the unemployment rate, and reduced poverty by more than 50%. With the estimated third in 2018.
Lebanon has been without a government since resigning in August, and senior politicians have been reluctant to compromise on forming a new government that could pave the way for reform and restoration. Street violence and sectarian tensions are on the rise.
“People are dying, nobody cares.” Tahan said when he visited a cousin who owns a perfume shop on Hamra Street in Beirut. Both wore masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Ra’s popular shopping district, known for its boutiques, lively cafes and theaters, Hamra Street has changed in the face of the epidemic. Many shops were closed on the last day, some due to blockades, others due to the economic crisis forever. Open traders still complain that they sell almost nothing.
The beggars asked the passers-by for money. A woman and her child sat on the sidewalk next to a wall painting that read, “We are all beggars.”
“It can’t get any worse,” said Ibrahim Simon, 59, who runs a clothing store. Sales fell by 90% compared to previous years. He could not sell his winter stock for almost two months after the virus was blocked, and now the currency is deteriorating.
Ibrahim Farshukh, 28, said he could barely pay the rent for his shop, which sold handmade leather bracelets and bags. Sometimes his wife stays behind while he goes out on the street trying to sell bracelets to passers-by. “The situation is intolerable,” he added.
The vast majority of the population is paid in Lebanese pounds, which means that their incomes are falling further as prices rise and pensions evaporate. The inflation has also depleted foreign reserves, prompting strong warnings that the central bank could no longer finance some major commodities, including fuel subsidies.
Videos on social media show supermarket fires as shoppers try to reach for subsidized products such as cooking oil or powdered milk. In one video, armed members of a Lebanese intelligence agency check ID cards inside a supermarket before handing over a bag of subsidized rice.
People who used to live comfortably are now unable to pay school fees and insurance premiums, or even eat well.
“I do not remember the last time we ate meat. I can not afford it, “said Tahan, whose husband is an airport attendant. The family diet now consists mainly of lentils, rice and oats, he said.
The collapse of the currency has forced some grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses to temporarily close down as officials warn of growing food insecurity.
Nabil Fahd, head of the Supermarket Owners Association, told local MTV that people are stockpiling products that stores can no longer recharge. After selling something, shopkeepers have to pay more Lebanese pounds for new products. “He is in a very, very serious crisis,” he said.
The price of bread, which is the country’s main machine, has doubled in the past year, and then earlier this month, bakers lowered a box of bread without changing the price.
Taha accuses Lebanon’s corrupt political class of bankrupting a small nation.
In 2000, Asem Shoaib quit his job at one of Beirut’s leading newspapers and moved with his family to France, where he opened a Lebanese restaurant near Paris. Walking down Hamra Street during a recent visit, the 59-year-old said he had made the right decision.
“It was clear that the country was heading for collapse,” he said.