Lebanon: Hundreds protest devaluation of lira and pensions
Hundreds of Lebanese gathered on Wednesday near the government headquarters in Beirut to protest against worsening economic conditions, before riot police and troops dispersed the crowd with tear gas.
Most of the protesters were depositors and retired security personnel demanding inflationary adjustments to their pensions.
The protesters, carrying Lebanese flags and the insignia of the security forces, gathered between the parliament and the government headquarters in downtown Beirut, and tried several times to break through the gate leading to the Grand Serail (the palace of the main -attention).
There is widespread anger in Lebanon as economic and living conditions continue to deteriorate more than three years into a severe financial crisis, with no signs of abating.
Protesters were angered by the decline in the value of state pensions paid in the local currency, which has lost more than 98 percent of its value against the US dollar since the start of the financial crisis.
Meanwhile, Lebanese depositors have had limited access to their savings since late 2019 after banks imposed informal capital controls.
Some protesters threw stones, and the retired soldiers and police clashed with riot police and troops, who responded with tear gas and some tried to cross the fence into the compound housing government offices.
“If he is firing at us, he is shooting at our rights and his rights at the same time,” army veteran Ahmad Mustafa, 60, told Reuters.
“He is suffering just like me,” he said, clutching two of the tear gas canisters fired just moments before.
Protesters rejected relentless price increases across the board, a worsening health care situation, and the closure of public schools due to teachers striking for better pay since December.
The Lebanese lira, officially pegged at 15,000 per dollar, was trading on parallel markets at more than 100,000 against the greenback, a sharp drop from the 1,507 peg before the collapse.
New low for lira
On Tuesday, the currency hit a low of 140,000 per dollar, before intervention by the country’s central bank.
The currency collapse has been devastating for those on fixed incomes, prompting a rise in prices of imported fuel, food, medicine and other basic goods.
Earlier this month, the government allowed supermarkets and shops to price goods in dollars as they struggle to keep up with daily price fluctuations.
Years of financial mismanagement, unsustainable loans, and corruption of Lebanon’s financial and political elite have fueled one of the world’s worst economic crises, according to the World Bank.
As of late 2021, the United Nations estimated that nearly half of Lebanon’s population has fallen into poverty since 2019.
Lebanese Army troops and members of the security forces are receiving salary support in US dollars from the United States and Qatar for the first time.