Meat off the menu for Le­banese troops as aus­ter­ity bites

Arab News - - Front Page - Na­jia Hous­sari Beirut

Meat came off the menu for Le­banese sol­diers on Tues­day as food prices soared amid a con­tin­u­ing eco­nomic col­lapse.

The black mar­ket value of the Le­banese pound has plunged to about 8,000 to the US dol­lar, com­pared with an of­fi­cial rate of 1,507, send­ing food prices up by more than 70 per­cent in six months. A kilo of lamb now costs 80,000 pounds, up from 30,000 two months ago, and a kilo of beef has in­creased from 18,000 pounds to more than 50,000. The price of 900 gram of sub­si­dized bread rose on Tues­day from 1,500 pounds to 2,000.

The union of butch­ers and cat­tle farm­ers said more than 60 per­cent of butcher shops had closed in the past few weeks, and the army has “com­pletely scrapped meat from meals of­fered to sol­diers while they are on duty,” a spokesman said.

With their pounds in­creas­ingly worth­less, many Le­banese have taken to bar­ter­ing on­line to sur­vive. A Face­book group called “Le­banon barters” has at­tracted 12,000 users in two weeks.

One user, Zeinab, 25, is of­fer­ing a black evening dress in ex­change for milk for­mula and two pack­ets of nap­pies for her 11-month-old boy. “I’ve never asked for any­thing from any­one, so I thought bar­ter­ing would be bet­ter,” she said. Traders’ as­so­ci­a­tion chief Sami Al-Irani told Arab News: “We can­not imag­ine a sit­u­a­tion worse than this. Is there really some­one work­ing to tackle this crisis?

“A third of shops, restau­rants and ho­tels have closed, and fir­ing em­ploy­ees has not stopped. The monthly min­i­mum wage has be­come suf­fi­cient for a few days only. “The fi­nan­cial crisis is re­flected in the short­age of bread and fuel. We will soon go back to us­ing can­dles. Are we liv­ing in a coun­try whose gov­ern­ment has gone mad?”

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