Lebanon: Private sector calls for Mikati to go
Lebanon’s leading private sector alliance called on Prime Minister Najib Mikati over the weekend to step down, as hotels in the capital reported cancellations following Friday’s killing of Intelligence Chief Wissam al-Hasan.
“The Economic Committees unanimously agreed to call on President Michel Sleiman to accept the resignation of the Cabinet, which has failed to provide security and stability, the very reason for its formation,” a statement read by head of the Chambers of Commerce Mohammad Choukeir said.
The Economic Committees’ statement called on Sleiman to proceed with consultations to form what they described as “a National Contingency Cabinet” to avert the country’s plunge into a risky political vacuum.
“[Only] such a government can be in charge of providing security, a prerequisite to reassuring socioeconomic and financial stability,” said the statement, which followed an urgent meeting held Saturday evening.
The statement also called for providing urgent compensation to citizens and businesses affected by the blast which ripped through Ashrafieh, killing Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan and his driver, as well as one bystander.
Hotels contacted by The Daily Star confirmed a predictable outflow of tourists following the deadly blast.
At Le Bristol, a reservation officer said the hotel was already running on low occupancy, highlighting that at least one 15-person group, which had been due to arrive Sunday, had cancelled after the attack.
Gefinor Rotana also reported a significant number of cancellations but said it could not give exact figures. The cancellations had hit both current hotel guests and visitors expected to arrive for Eid al-Adha holiday next week, an employee said.
Markazia Monroe Suites said tens of guests cancelled, adding that almost all reservations for the upcoming holiday had now been dumped.
The explosion in Beirut’s Ashrafieh neighborhood will likely deal another crippling blow to the Lebanese economy, which has been struggling for most of 2012.
Experts say the expected plunge in tourism and investments in the aftermath of the bombing will take a heavy toll on an economy already reeling from the global economic crisis and instability in neighboring Syria.
Tourism was strongly hit in 2012, declining 12.49 percent in the first eight months of the year, with a total of 986,019 visitors entering the country compared to 1,126,755 visitors recorded by August 2011.
Banking, another key sector of the local economy, is expected to see profits plunging as much as 25 percent by the end of the year, leading banker Francois Bassil had told The Daily Star earlier this month.
Prior to the deadly explosion, hopes had been high that the country would see at least a temporary rebound in tourism during the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday.
In the past few years, the holiday saw hotels operating at near full occupancy and tourists and shoppers spending more money on gifts and entertainment.