Lebanon Seeks IMF Assistance in Avoiding Economic Collapse
The International Monetary Fund has confirmed that Lebanon is seeking technical help regarding its crushing foreign debt, which is partly responsible for massive anti-government protests that have paralyzed much of the country since late last year. “We have recently received a request from the Lebanese authorities to offer advice and technical expertise on the macroeconomic challenges facing the economy,” Gerry Rice, the IMF spokesman, said on Wednesday. The Eastern Mediterranean country faces its next financial challenge in early March when a $1.2 billion Eurobond comes due. The protests began in mid-October when the government of Saad al-Hariri attempted to levy a new tax on the use of popular internet-based communications programs such as Whatsapp. They quickly morphed into a mass movement aimed at changing the entire political system, with Hariri resigning in November. His replacement, Hassan Diab, whose government was given a vote of confidence in parliament on Tuesday, is no more acceptable to the protesters – as a former cabinet minister, they see him as no less a part of the sectarian system they are seeking to overturn.