Internet shutdowns hit cash-strapped Lebanon due to strike


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BEIRUT — Internet shutdowns rippled through cash-strapped Lebanon on Tuesday after workers at the country’s state-owned telecommunications company went on strike, demanding higher wages.

It was the latest reflection of one of the world’s worst economic disasters, which plunged three-quarters of Lebanon’s 6 million people into poverty. The Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value against the US dollar in three years.

Employees of Ogero and other public sector institutions have not had their salaries adjusted to take into account the depreciation of the pound and soaring inflation.

“Unfortunately, at my level, there is very little that can be done,” Ogero chairman Imad Kreidieh told The Associated Press. “Ogero does not have the funds to fix the problem.”

Kreidieh added that the issue is to be resolved by the Lebanese parliament and the interim government.

According to the Lebanese National News Agency, internet shutdowns have hit several cities across the country, including several neighborhoods in Beirut.

Interim Telecommunications Minister Johnny Corm did not immediately respond to the AP when asked if the government was working to resolve the internet shutdowns.

Legislator Paula Yacoubian told the AP that the parliament’s telecommunications committee will meet on Monday next week to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, parliament has yet to pass a state budget for 2022 as the country struggles to reform its corrupt and unproductive economy.

Thousands of public sector workers have already been on strike for nearly two months, demanding higher wages and transport allowances.

Lebanon’s government in May approved increases in the prices of internet and phone subscriptions, saying the hikes are crucial for the survival of the country’s ailing telecommunications sector, which is struggling to maintain its infrastructure and buy diesel fuel for its services. generators.

Lebanon’s already fragile infrastructure deteriorated further after the massive explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed several neighborhoods in the Lebanese capital.

Lebanon’s economic crisis continues to pulverize public life. The cash-strapped country is already grappling with soaring gasoline, electricity and food prices, as well as widespread power cuts and water shortages. Residents rely almost entirely on expensive subscriptions to private diesel generators, as the country’s indebted and bloated state power company provides no more than about two hours of electricity a day.

Over the past two years, Ogero has struggled to maintain its infrastructure, provide fuel for its generators, and prevent the theft of copper and metal wires. In January, around 26,000 subscribers in Beirut went offline due to diesel fuel shortages, including the Internal Security Forces operations room.

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