Lebanese President Michel Aoun announced today that his country has entered an unprecedented crisis characterised by an economic recession, a severe shortage of foreign currencies, high unemployment and poverty rates and inflation.
Aoun's remarks came in a speech he delivered before members of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISGL), during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in east Beirut, in the presence of Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
The Lebanese president stated: "For these reasons, and to stop the depletion of reserves, the state decided to suspend the repayment of Eurobonds, and the appointment of two international financial and legal consultants to act as government counsellors."
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The ISGL, which was founded in 2013, announced at its meeting in Paris last year that the international community is willing to assist Lebanon in overcoming the ongoing financial crisis, provided that an effective, credible and capable government is established to fight corruption.
"We heavily rely on the $11 billion aid pledge we received at the CEDRE conference in Paris, which will mainly be devoted to investment in infrastructure projects," Aoun said.
He added: "Today we are facing all these crises and repercussions, and we welcome any assistance from the friends of Lebanon. (…) We are working to prepare a comprehensive economic and financial plan to mend the economy's imbalances."
Aoun continued: "Lebanon is witnessing today two of the worst crises that affected the world in 75 years. Although the COVID-19 epidemic is an ill fate that befell us, we were forced to face the refugees' crisis, which cost us more than $25 billion."
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More than a million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon are registered in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while the Lebanese government estimates that the actual number of Syrians living in the country is 1.5 million.
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, said the COVID-19 crisis poses an unprecedented challenge for Lebanon, in addition to economic difficulties, leading the country to a deeper state of despair.