Public anger over Lebanon’s worst economic crisis is spreading in its supermarkets, numerous fights are going viral on social media, and people are fighting to reduce subsidized milk, rice and oil.
Analysts warn that Lebanon could soon go hungry if the government does not change its strategy to properly deal with the social consequences of the crisis.
“If there is meat, we give it to the kids and eat something else,” said Rakita Weiss, a 47-year-old accountant at a supermarket in the suburbs of Beirut this week.
“We will soon be eating only bread to feed the children,” said his elderly mother.
Their bill for oil, milk, rice and coffee is four times higher than the one caused by the country’s severe economic crisis in late 2019. The women said they would drop traditional home-made Easter cakes this weekend because pistachios, an important ingredient, are unaffordable.
Lebanon relies on imports to feed its people, and their prices have risen at the rate of the fall of the local currency, which has lost 90 percent of its value against the dollar since late 2019. In a report last month, the World Bank said Lebanon had the highest food prices in the region.
But income remains unchanged. At two million Lebanese pounds a month, Ms Hewis’ salary is 33,333. This was three times the minimum wage, which guaranteed her a good standard of living.
Now that equals $ 160, not enough to eat. “We are educated, it’s a shame we have to live like this,” he said.
Others could not afford the basics. Tony, 60, put three small bags of macaroni, semolina and sugar back on the shelf after scanning their prices. “These prices are amazing,” he said sarcastically.
Tony lost a salary of 600 600,000 a month when he was fired from his job due to the crisis. “I will try another supermarket to see if I can find products at subsidized prices,” he said.
Like Tony, many people spend hours going from supermarket to supermarket, finding stocks that are always declining at subsidized prices such as rice, oil and sugar.
According to supermarket owners, these products are now in short supply because importers buy less because the government has no money and cannot compensate for the difference between market cost and selling price.
Nabil Baheed, president of the department store owners’ association, said the government had reduced the number of subsidized items from 300 last summer to 30 today. Care Minister Raul Nehme did not comment.
“People think there will be a shortage, so they start hoarding,” Mr Fahed said. National. “On top of that, their business is to collect and resell these items,” he said.
Last week, one of his two supermarkets north of Beirut sold 5,000 gallons of subsidized cooking oil in five hours. Usually, this takes a month. At a local supermarket chain called Circuitier Aun, 70 gallons of oil went down in a matter of minutes three weeks ago. “People are buying frantically,” said marketing manager Riyadh Girella.
Recently, Circuitier Aun, like many supermarkets, began to allow only one subsidized product per customer. But rationing like this has caused fights, with angry shopkeepers demanding that they buy each other’s elbows more or more violently to reach the shelves.
“When you start the ration, it is not done properly and then you will have conflict and friction. Our staff is not trained for this,” Mr Fahed said, asking the Ministry of Economy to replace subsidized items with card systems to help poor families buy petrol, food and medicine.
On March 12, parliament approved a total of $ 246 million a month in World Bank loan financing for the poor.
But the problem is that there is no policy strategy, said Mary-Noel Abi Yaki, a professor at the Institute of Political Science at St. Joseph’s University in Beirut.
“The government is simply kicking in by accepting tentative decisions like subsidies and money transfers,” he said. National.
“Historically, social rights have been outsourced to the private sector and charities, which further widen the divide between the governor and the state, fostering confessions of solidarity and consent, but also breaking down democratic processes for accountability and political participation,” he said.
“Apart from poverty alleviation programs, the government should pursue an overall social policy based on a solid social security system that guarantees the rights of all,” she said.
Everything was expensive and we could not buy anything
Diana Kirus, housewife
The shortage of subsidized goods has changed public opinion against supermarkets and has since spread rumors that they are hiding stocks to sell at higher prices. Enthusiasts are constantly organizing surprise experiments. “We are doing the government’s job,” said activist Fadi Kanch. “We expect a social explosion.”
Mr Fahed denied the allegations, saying they were born out of a misunderstanding after the union decided to start planning a display of manufactured goods at subsidized prices with the Ministry of Economy.
But after activists began organizing the tests, some supermarkets refused to take the full range of subsidized items. Mr Fahad stopped regulating their sales in his stores. “It is not our responsibility to regulate distribution,” he said. “We tried to play it fair. You can’t be fair when you are accused.”
Lebanon’s poor are avoiding over-reliance on charities to get food, medicine and clothing at supermarkets. “Everything is expensive and we can’t afford anything,” said Diana Kirus, a 33-year-old homemaker with two young children.
Juliette Warsaw, a 52-year-old nun who has been running a boarding house for women for the past 30 years, arranges food distribution in the northeastern suburb of Beirut. “People are no longer ashamed to ask for help.”
Posted: April 2, 2021 07:35 AM