Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab says certain internal elements together with foreign parties are seeking to push the cash-strapped Arab country deeper into economic crisis as the local currency has been on a downward trajectory for weeks, losing more than half of its value.
“Unfortunately, there are internal parties that do not care about the future of the country. They are only seeking personal interests, which are shrouded in political and sectarian calculations,” Lebanon’s official National News Agency quoted Diab as saying at a cabinet session on Thursday.
“Such parties are either mercenaries working to drag Lebanon into regional conflicts and use it as a bargaining chip, or are encouraging external parties to exert control over the country and bargain over it for the sake of regional and international interests,” Diab added.
He added, “A political and financial blockade is imposed [on Lebanon], and it is aimed at starvation of the Lebanese nation. At the same time, they (local and external parties) claim that they want to help the Lebanese people.
“They ask for reforms, but protect corruption, grant corrupt people immunity and do not allow us to pursue financial files and recover stolen assets.”
“They are increasing the dollar value against Lebanese pound, and are trying to disrupt the government's measures to counter the price surge. Whilst they demand financial measures, they smuggle money abroad, prevent incoming transfers, and block the opening of letters of credit for fuel, medicine and flour in order to deprive Lebanese people of electricity, starve them and let them die because of scarcity of medical supplies,” Diab highlighted.
“To add insult to injury, they claim to be supportive of Lebanon and eager to offer assistance to the Lebanese people,” he argued.
Diab went on to say that certain parties “are blatantly interfering in Lebanon's affairs. There have been secret and public meetings, letters written with secret ink, encrypted messages, WhatsApp messages as well as plots and operations” in order to impede government plans.
“The government is working to break the link between the dollar price and the cost of living. We are in the final stage of accomplishing this task. We will continue to disburse financial aid to needed families every month. We are gradually increasing the number of beneficiary families,” the Lebanese prime minister said.
Diab’s remarks came amid local media reports that intensive contacts are underway to push some ministers to tender their resignations before the entire government steps down.
“Negotiations have been ongoing for the past 24 hours with former prime minister Saad Hariri over the possibility of his return as premier,” Arabic-language Akhbar al-Yawm news agency quoted informed sources, requesting anonymity, as saying.
Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis in decades. The Lebanese pound has continued to plummet against the US dollar, losing more than 60 percent of its value over the last weeks while sources of foreign currency have dried up.
The economic situation is fueling inflation, which the Finance Ministry has estimated will reach 27 percent later this year.
Diab assured Lebanese citizens on April 16 that at least 98 percent of bank deposits will not be affected by any financial measures that his government plans to take.
Some economists have, however, cast doubts on such promises, terming them as “out of touch with reality.”