BEIRUT (Dispatches) – Lebanese MP Ali Bazzi, citing the country’s parliament speaker, said on Wednesday that work was underway to protect bank deposits amid a financial crisis that has shaken confidence in the country’s banks.
Bazzi said parliament was ready to "secure the preservation of people’s rights” and that small depositors and the deposits of expatriates would be protected.
A senior UN official said on Wednesday Lebanese politicians are watching on as the economy collapses and protests turn angry, rebuking a ruling elite that has failed to agree a government or rescue plan for a country in deep crisis.
With banks limiting access to cash, lenders were targeted in a night of protests in Beirut’s Hamra district. Bank facades and ATMs were smashed and dozens of people wounded in confrontations with police.
Lebanon has struggled since the government was toppled by the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in October as a result of protests.
"Another day of confusion around the formation of a government, amidst the increasingly angry protests and free-falling economy,” Jan Kubis, UN special coordinator for Lebanon, wrote on Twitter. "Politicians, don’t blame the people, blame yourselves for this dangerous chaos.”
Kubis appeared to credit central bank governor Riad Salameh, saying he had sought "extraordinary powers to at least somehow manage the economy while those responsible watch it collapsing”.
"Incredible,” he wrote.
Salameh asked for extra powers last week, saying he wanted to standardize the banking controls.
On October 29, then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri, under pressure from unprecedented cross-sectarian protests, stepped down, creating the political void.
In December, Hassan Diab was designated prime minister. He vowed to form a government made up of "independent specialists” who did not belong to political parties. However, the 60-year-old former education minister and self-professed "technocrat” has so far failed to form an emergency government amid political divisions and jockeying for power, leaving Lebanon with no choice other than having a caretaker government.
On Tuesday, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said that "obstacles” had blocked the way for the formation of a new government, which had been expected last week, stressing that the country was currently paying the price for 30 years of wrong financial policies.
Following a lull, protesters on Tuesday said they were resolute to force authorities, accused of being inefficient and corrupt, to resign and to form an independent and capable government.