Lebanon struggles to restore normality amid protests

Banque du Liban, the country’s central bank, provided banks with money from their deposits in order to meet citizens’ needs. (Reuters)
Updated 22 October 2019

Lebanon struggles to restore normality amid protests

  • The ISG urged Lebanese authorities to address people’s complaints, demanding structural reforms and responsible and acceptable social changes that truly curb corruption and waste
  • Such changes, the ISG said, should ensure proper governance and full accountability, and lead to sustainable and stable growth

BEIRUT: Lebanese banks will remain closed in light of nationwide protests for the fifth consecutive day, the Association of Banks in Lebanon announced.

However, Banque du Liban, the country’s central bank, on Tuesday provided banks with money from their deposits in order to meet citizens’ needs.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Akram Chehayeb ordered all schools and universities to resume classes on Wednesday “in order to preserve the interests of students and to preserve the academic year.”

Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with the International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon, which includes envoys from the US, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, the EU, China and the Arab League, as well as the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis. 

The ISG urged Lebanese authorities to address people’s complaints, demanding “structural reforms and responsible and acceptable social changes that truly curb corruption and waste, away from sectarianism.”

Such changes, it said, should “ensure proper governance and full accountability, and lead to sustainable and stable growth.”

Kubis said Hariri “committed that the government and its legitimate security forces will continue to protect civilians who are demonstrating peacefully, and will take appropriate measures against any possible violent incitement, to protect public and private property and institutions, and the people’s right to peacefully express their views.”

On behalf of the ISG, Kubis urged “officials and political actors in Lebanon to listen to the legitimate demands of the people, work with them on solutions, apply them, and refrain from any statements and acts that could inflame tensions and incite confrontation and violence.”

After meeting Hariri, Kuwait’s ambassador to Lebanon, Abdel Aal Al-Kinai, said: “Now is not the time to speak but to act.”

The CEDRE Conference follow-up committee will convene in Paris on Nov. 15 to launch the implementation of development projects worth $11 billion to help Lebanon overcome its economic and financial crisis.


Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

Updated 15 November 2019

Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

  • Others have also reduced headcount amid economic downturn and property market weakness

DUBAI: HSBC Holdings has laid off about 40 bankers in the UAE and Emirates NBD is cutting around 100 jobs, as banks in the Arab world’s second-biggest economy reduce costs.

The cuts come amid weak economic growth, especially in Dubai, which is suffering from a property downturn.

HSBC’s redundancies came after the London-based bank reported a sharp fall in earnings and warned of a costly restructuring, as interim CEO Noel Quinn seeks to tackle its problems head-on.

HSBC has about 3,000 staff in the UAE, part of a nearly 10,000-strong workforce in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

The cuts at Dubai’s largest lender Emirates NBD came in consumer sales and liabilities, one source said, while a second played down the significance of the move.

HSBC and Emirates NBD declined to comment.

“The cuts are part of cost cutting and rationalizing to drive efficiencies in a challenging market,” the second source said.

Other banks have also reduced staff this year. UAE central bank data shows local banks laid off 446 people in the 12 months until the end of September. Foreign banks added staff in the same period.

Staff at local banks account for over 80 percent of the 35,518 banking employees in the country.

The merger between Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union Commercial Bank and Al Hilal Bank saw hundreds of redundancies.

Commercial Bank International (CBI) said it would offer voluntary retirement to employees in September, which sources said saw over 100 departures. Standard Chartered, too, cut over 100 jobs in the UAE in September.

Rating agency Fitch warned in September a weakening property market would put more pressure on the UAE’s banking sector.