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Parliament Speaker Berri says Lebanon looks like "sinking ship"

posted onNovember 18, 2019
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Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Monday (Nov. 18) that Lebanon resembles a sinking ship that will go under unless proper actions are taken, referring to the deep economic and political turmoil in the country. 

“The country is like a ship that is sinking little by little,” Lebanese national newspaper  al-Joumhuria cited him as saying “If we don’t take the necessary steps, it will sink entirely.”

An-Nahar, another newspaper, quoted Berri as likening the situation of the Lebanese people to that of passengers on the Titanic. 

Lebanon has been plunged deeper into trouble since Oct. 17 when an unprecedented wave of protests against the ruling elite erupted across the country. Demonstrators have accused political leaders of corruption, demanding social and economic reforms as well as sufficient basic services.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29. Efforts to form a new government, needed to enact urgent reforms, hit a setback at the weekend when former finance minister Mohammad Safadi  withdrew his name from consideration for prime minister, saying it was too hard to form a "harmonious" government with broad support. 

Berri said he still hoped that outgoing Prime Minister Hariri would agree to form a new cabinet, al-Joumhuria reported. 

Since reopening on Nov. 1 after a two-week closure, banks have been seeking to stave off capital flight, while the pegged Lebanese pound is under pressure on the informal market. 

On Sunday banks announced temporary measures including a weekly cap of $1,000 on cash withdrawals and restricting transfers abroad to cover urgent personal spending only. 

Bank staff plan to continue a nationwide strike on Monday over safety fears as depositors demand access to their money, Reuters reported. 

On Sunday, Standard & Poor's lowered Lebanon's foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings deeper into junk territory to "CCC/C" from "B-/B." 

With reporting by Reuters and Middle East Eye