Analysts fear gloomy future after Lebanese PM’s 72-hr reform ultimatum

Analysis by Ayoub Khaddaj BEIRUT, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri has given politicians in the country a 72-hour ultimatum to carry out reforms amid angry protests, but analysts predict a bleak future for the country.

Hariri earlier told protesters he would have “something else to say” if his government failed to “give us a solution that can convince us, the people on the streets and our international partners.” Protesters gathered by the tens of thousands, are angry over government plans to impose further taxes as costs of living are on the rise, and are calling for the resignation of the elite.

The situation “cannot withstand procrastination,” said Political Science and International Affairs Associate Professor Imad Salamey, but despite this, the options available for a change within the authority are “limited.” The protesters represent varied communities, and are putting huge pressure on authorities, Salamey said.

However, their calls for a change are “far from the political reality,” he argues, because the alternatives are “huge debt, modest capabilities and economic dependence on support abroad amid a volatile regional situation.” Tony Farah, Al-Joumhouria newspaper economic chief editor, said if Hariri does resign, after shifting of the blame to other politicians, this would lead to “economic collapse.” “There is a lack of confidence in the economic and financial situation.

“If financial markets were to open up, in light of the protests, there will be great pressure on the local currency and greater demand for the US dollar.” Global financial rating agencies have slashed their rating on Lebanon as financial markets look for more withdrawals abroad, he said.

To top this, there is no agreement to fill the vacuum if Hariri were to resign, he said.

Therefore, Farah predicted a future of “bankruptcy and collapse.”

Source: Kuwait News Agency