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BEIRUT: Power cuts, falling exchange rates and rising unemployment have struck Lebanon, even as the country’s president on Monday urged people to “keep hoping” and not “surrender” obstacles and difficulties ”.

President Michel Aoun made this remark after the Baalbek international festival on Sunday evening – “The sound of resilience” – which took place without an audience and was broadcast live on local TV channels in addition to the Arab media. and international. It was also broadcast live on the festival’s social media accounts and other digital platforms.

Aoun declared that the musical evening was “the most expressive manifestation of the spirit of challenge and confrontation which animates the will of the Lebanese faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, on the one hand, and the economic and financial crisis. unprecedented in the history of our homeland.

However, the respite from the turbulence was brief and the Lebanese woke up to darker news. There has been an increase in the dollar exchange rate on the black market, with the purchase price varying between 8,900 LBP and 9,000 LBP for $ 1. The sale price varied between 9,000 LBP and 9,200 LBP. The dollar exchange rate fell to 7,000 LBP this weekend.

The Lebanese pound lost 80% of its value this year. Food prices have skyrocketed, businesses have closed, wages and economies have disappeared, and unemployment has increased.

It is not known whether the Central Bank’s decision – to guarantee the necessary amounts in foreign currency to meet the needs of importers and manufacturers of raw and basic materials used in the food industry on the basis of an exchange rate of 3900 LBP – will manage to alleviate the crisis.

The Lebanese circulated a video of a person lying on a sidewalk in Baalbek with a sign that said: “I am an educator, I am educated, I beg to live. ”

The Minister of Labor, Lamia Yammine, estimated the unemployment rate in the country at more than 30% after the closure of hundreds of institutions and the dismissal of thousands of employees.

Lebanon is also experiencing power cuts of more than 16 hours a day. Rafic Hariri International Hospital said it was turning off some air conditioners and postponing some operations due to power outages and lack of diesel.

Communications company Ogero said its services “may experience interruptions” in some areas if owners of private generators stop supplying power to certain generators and communication rooms.

This crisis, among others, brought people back to the streets to protest and block the roads in Beirut.

Taxi drivers protested outside the interior ministry in the capital city of Sanayeh to demand “a change in the passenger fare”. Truckers working for cement factories blocked a road in central Beirut, opposite the Ministry of the Environment, to seek permission to invest in quarries. Teachers expelled from private schools held a sit-in outside the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, while the Association of Lebanese Industrialists warned that the sector was “bleeding”.

“The problems are not only related to the provision of liquidity to import raw materials, but also to other problems which have become more pressing recently,” Fady Gemayel, president of the association, told Arab News. “These problems imply that industrialists must resort to the parallel market to obtain the dollar to finance their purchases abroad, especially raw materials, in the face of the rapid rise in the dollar exchange rate. And finally the power cuts, the record increase in the number of hours of rationing and the scarcity of diesel and fuel. It is a dangerous issue that needs to be addressed quickly before it is too late. ”

Security forces continue to arrest activists for criticizing authorities on social media.

Activist Pierre Hashash was arrested on Monday and two of those who gathered to protest his detention were beaten.

“A group of security and military agencies summoned dozens of people and questioned them, including several on several occasions, regarding comments they had posted on social media criticizing the authorities,” said director Lynn Maalouf. Amnesty International’s Middle East research. “Lebanon must respect, under international law, the right to freedom of expression and to its protection even if that expression is likely to be shocking, offensive or boring.”

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