Report: Lebanon Prepares to Go on Strike over Cuts in Subsidies


The unions in crisis-hit Lebanon threatened to stage nationwide strikes to protest the government's plan to stop subsidies on basic goods, amid warnings the move would affect some goods in the country in light of a decline in imports due to the dollar crisis, Asharq el-Awsat newspaper reported Monday.

Bassam Tleis, head of the land transport unions, said Sunday: “We decided to escalate action and strikes. We will not accept any plan to stop subsidies if it was not backed up by legislation to protect the citizens.”

The central bank of Lebanon is believed to have around $18 billion in foreign currency reserves -- down from $20 billion in April -- which it has been using to support basic imports of fuel, wheat and medicine at a stable price after the currency collapse.

Central bank governor Riad Salameh had informed the government it would need to stop this support when reserves reach $17.5 billion.

Discussions began last week to rationalize subsidies, raising warnings the move could trigger several crises mainly a spike in gasoline prices, successively affecting transportation cost and other basic goods.

Tleis said the “fuel issue impacts each and every Lebanese citizen. We are in a real crisis.”

For his part, CEO of Berytec Maroun Chammas and member of the oil importing companies association said: "Any cut in imports affects the economic cycle. We need to find a solution to the crisis, we need to be frank with the people.”

He added in televised remarks: “The government must put a clear plan shall it decide on cutting fuel imports,” noting it would affect the whole Lebanese economy.

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