Lebanese Economic Bodies Threaten Strike over Govt. Formation Delay

Lebanese Economic Bodies Threaten Strike over Govt. Formation Delay

Sunday, 4 November, 2018 - 09:30
People walk along Beirut's corniche. (AFP)
Beirut - Caroline Akoum
The economic bodies and General Labor Union in Lebanon have threatened to hold a strike in Lebanon in wake of the ongoing delay in forming a new government, which is having a devastating impact on the country.

They had threatened to take to the street if the cabinet is not formed by the end October.

Now that the deadline has ended, the economic bodies held a meeting to announce an upcoming sit-in.

The General Labor Union was noticeably absent from the meeting, raising questions that it may not have been invited.

Economic bodies head Mohammed Shucair told Asharq Al-Awsat that the its meeting was restricted to its members. Another meeting will be held later to coordinate future steps.

Head of the General Labor Union Beshara al-Asmar, meanwhile, stated that he was not concerned with the decisions of the economic bodies, despite having been an advocate of staging a strike.

After a recent meeting with the bodies, however, he opted to take the middle ground, explaining that any escalation on the ground could veer Lebanon towards a dangerous path. In addition, taking unilateral action without other economic partners could drive a wedge between them.

Shucair explained that the sit-in would be an occasion for economic bodies to issue a warning to political authorities over the need to form a new government because of the “disastrous” situation Lebanon is enduring.

The sit-in will be followed with an open strike. A decision over the issue will be taken on Monday and Tuesday. He hoped that a new government will be formed before people take to the streets.

Asmar shared a different view, saying that street action could lead to “unforeseen consequences.”

“We refuse to be held accountable for such repercussions,” he said.

He did not deny the difference between the economic bodies and General Labor Union, adding: “We will wait to see what the bodies do and we will take the appropriate decision.”

Moreover, he said that the Union was holding constant meetings in wake of the government formation delay.

“We will work on pressuring officials. We will see what sort of pressure we will apply, because resorting to the street today could lead to major dangers,” he cautioned.

Five months since parliamentary elections, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has been unable to clinch a deal on the new government because of the competing demands of rival parties for cabinet seats that are parceled out along sectarian lines.

Lebanon is dire need of a government able to make economic reforms that are seen as more pressing than ever. The country is wrestling with the world’s third largest public debt as a proportion of the economy and stagnant growth.

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