In an interview with CNN in Arabic, Al-Saidi said: “It is clear that what happened in Lebanon over the course of 18 months is probably the biggest economic and financial collapse, apart from natural accidents and wars. What happened in Lebanon was not witnessed by any other country.”
Lebanon is suffering from a severe economic crisis that has led to the deterioration of its national currency by 90% and to a high rate of inflation, which necessitated Lebanon’s request for international assistance. Indeed, the previous government began negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to reach a financial aid package that has not yet seen the light due to internal differences over the economic recovery plan.
Al-Saidi added that the economic indicators in Lebanon recorded sharp declines, as the real GDP has decreased by about 45% since 2018, while inflation exceeds 150%, while the inflation in food prices reached nearly 450% and the unemployment rate exceeded 45%.
On September 3, the United Nations published a report in which it indicated that 77% of the population in Lebanon suffers from multidimensional poverty. As the crisis worsened, thousands of Lebanese were forced to emigrate in search of a better life outside the country.
More than a year after the resignation of the government after the explosion of the port of Beirut, the Lebanese government was formed, headed by businessman Najib Mikati.
Al-Saidi added: “I hope that the Mikati government will focus on the economy, and leave politics aside if that is possible. I know that this may be a dream, but we have to think about the Lebanese youth, and to stop the emigration of thousands … (I am making) an appeal which is to put the economy first. “.
Al-Saidi continued by saying: “The economic collapse has already occurred. We are not talking about avoiding the collapse, but rather about preventing further deterioration. In my opinion, what we should talk about is a shocking treatment and not a stabilization of the situation.”
In addition to all this, the crisis affected Lebanese banks, which imposed restrictions on depositors withdrawing their deposits in dollars and the national currency. The crisis has also spread to bread, medicine and fuel, as the Central Bank seeks to remove subsidies completely. The government will launch a ration card program that sets cash for the poorest.
Al-Saidi said, “This kind of support should end. This will be painful for everyone, but it is the only way to stop the accelerating inflation, which the government will do through the ration card.” “I hope that what they call the ration card will not become a card that helps re-elect politicians in (parliamentary elections) in May 2022,” he added.
The Lebanese are suffering from a stifling electricity crisis that has been going on for years. Commenting on this, Al-Saidi said that Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity will help Lebanon a lot, but the solution is to generate electricity from renewable energy, which must be included in the energy strategy, and to restart the pipeline that connects to the cities of Sidon and Tripoli.
Al-Saidi doubted that Parliament would grant the Mikati government exceptional powers to achieve reforms, especially since the remaining deadline before the legislative elections in May 2022 would not be enough.
Regarding structural reforms, Saidi indicated that they are dependent on any assistance that Lebanon receives, and include restructuring the public debt, fighting corruption, and better governance in state institutions, such as Electricity of Lebanon for example, in addition to the social protection program. “Our system is worn out and needs to be changed,” he said.
Al-Saidi expected that the current government would obtain humanitarian aid and adjust some salaries, doubting that it would undertake major reforms given the current political structure.
As for the sectors that are expected to achieve growth and help Lebanon overcome its ordeal, Al-Saidi referred to the information technology and the cultural industry through which the Lebanese can spread their culture, such as food, jewelry, and the media, as well as agriculture with a promising future, pointing to Lebanon’s need to review trade agreements to facilitate export operations. It is among the 4 countries in the world that are not a member of the World Trade Organization.
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