'Fed up' and frustrated, Lebanese protesters attempt to storm the Economy Ministry

·3-min read

Nearly two years after the economic crisis first began in Lebanon, citizens still haven't seen the situation improve. On Sunday, June 6, dozens of people gathered in central Beirut to denounce the “corrupt” and “incompetent” government that they say is to blame. Protesters attempted to force open the doors of the Ministry of Economy and Trade before being dispersed by security forces.

The protest was organised on social media by a group called the "Revolutionaries of October 17", which is behind the protest movement that has gripped the country since October 2019.

The main group of protesters gathered in Martyrs' Square, briefly stopping traffic. Another group gathered in front of the Lebanese Parliament.

One group of agitated protesters tried to knock down the door of the building housing the Ministry of Economy and Trade, as shown in these pictures on social media. But security forces quickly intervened to stop them.

Sara Hamoud, the editor-in-chief of the site Lebanon and the World, a citizen-run media outlet that mainly covers social movements in Lebanon, had this to say:

Protesters returned to the streets because the state energy company Électricité du Liban [Lebanon Electricity] announced that it would increase electricity rationing. In some regions, people are living without power for 18 hours a day [Editor’s note: Power cuts have become increasingly common in Lebanon over the past few years and most homes are equipped with generators to help people ride out these blackouts].

At the same time, rumours that the government might end fuel subsidies sparked panic, and people started rushing to petrol stations to fill up their tanks. This panic caused a fuel shortage and rise in prices. Queues – sometimes made up of 50 cars or more – grew in front of these stations. Lots of people were unable to get to work because of the long queues and shortages. People are fed up, they can’t stand it anymore.

The Representative of Fuel Distributors in Lebanon Fadi Abou Chakra said on May 12, that, in the "short term", subsidies would not be lifted. He didn’t give any further details.

>> Read more on the Observers: Anger grows against Lebanese retailers accused of causing a shortage in essential goods

From a nosedive in the value of the Lebanese pound to an explosion in unemployment, Lebanon is facing the worst economic crisis in its history. More than half of the population has fallen below the poverty line.

“The economic and financial crisis is likely to rank in the top 10, possibly top 3, most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century,” said the World Bank in a report published on June 1.

This economic crisis has been aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the massive explosion that occurred at the port of Beirut in August 2020, which killed more than 200 people and destroyed entire neighbourhoods in the capital.

Moreover, the country has been without a government since August 10, 2020, when Prime Minister Hassan Diab stepped down after the Beirut explosions. Political squabbles are ongoing, especially between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun. International organisations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have made aid conditional on the formation of a government capable of carrying out reform.

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