Starved of dollars and drowning in debt, Lebanon’s economy sinks fast
BEIRUT: After importing medical supplies to Lebanon for 20 years, Hassan Hamdan shut his business in December. Sales were plummeting, clients couldn’t pay, and the dollars he needed to buy imports had dried up. Now he drives an Uber.
Businesses such as Hamdan’s have been shutting at a rapid rate since a financial crisis exacerbated by months of political instability has brought much of Lebanon’s economy to a halt. “Everyone is in debt – even me – because of what’s happening. But I’m able to afford food for the house and a few bills. Without Uber, I would be begging,” said Hamdan, 37.
While Lebanon produces little hard, up-to-date economic data, interviews with two dozen business owners, union leaders, industry groups and traders paint a picture of an economic and financial crisis without precedent since independence in 1943.
More than 220,000 jobs in the private sector have been shed since mid-October when protests fueled by worsening economic conditions erupted against the political elite, according to a survey in February.
“It’s a social catastrophe,” said Ramzi El Hafez, general manager of InfoPro, the research firm behind the survey. “This is the heaviest one-shot drop since the end of the civil war … There is no end in sight. – AFP
It is an open-ended crisis.” – AFP
A fifth of workers in the hotel industry, a traditional engine of the economy, have been laid off and in the southern city of Sidon, one in five shops has already shut down.
The job losses since October are a major blow to Lebanon’s employed workforce, which the International Labour Organisation estimated at just 1.59 million in a 2019 report.
Importers of critical goods such as medical supplies say their requests for dollars have gone almost entirely unmet since February, leaving many hospitals dangerously low on everything from heart stents to dialysis equipment.
– Reuters