Lebanon's RAMCO to cease operations unless government provides assistance

RAMCO started operating at 50 percent capacity, director Walid Bou Saad said, citing the reason that they do not have enough diesel to fully operate

  
A migrant worker from Bangladesh, who works for waste management company RAMCO, sweeps a street in Jdeideh, near Beirut, Lebanon, May 19, 2020.

A migrant worker from Bangladesh, who works for waste management company RAMCO, sweeps a street in Jdeideh, near Beirut, Lebanon, May 19, 2020.

Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: Waste Management company RAMCO threatened Monday to stop its operations in Beirut, Kesrouan and Metn, in yet another sign of Lebanon’s faltering economy.

RAMCO started operating at 50 percent capacity, director Walid Bou Saad told The Daily Star, citing the reason that they do not have enough diesel to fully operate.

Fuel importers are demanding payments in cash in line with a Central Bank circular, and RAMCO is unable to meet that demand, Bou Saad said. “Unless a solution is found, our fuel will last us until the end of this week.”

The director said their expenses are at LL90 million per week, but the banks are only providing them with a LL5 million amount in cash per week. In addition, Bou Saad also said he has around 500 Lebanese workers whom he has to pay LL1 million in cash as they do not have bank accounts.

RAMCO’s operation cost is very high and revenues have declined by 70 percent in recent months, according to Bou Saad.

“We have been bearing losses for the past 10 months as we operate at a dollar rate of LL1,507.5” he added.

He is set to meet with Central Bank Gov. Riad Salameh and caretaker Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni Tuesday to hopefully reach a solution.

The company plans on asking to be paid in US currency and in checks, which they will in turn deposit it in the bank. Bou Saad said the government has been passive in finding solutions and assisting the company. “We’ve been waiting since April when they said they would assist us.”

Lebanon is in the midst of an economic collapse that started to plague the country at the end of 2019. A dollar liquidity issue led to its exchange rate with the local currency to surge and bank to impose tight and informal capital controls on foreign currency, throwing Lebanese people and businesses into uncertain grounds.

The US dollar has been pegged by the Central Bank at LL1,507.5 for decades but is currently trading at around LL6,700.

Back in July, hundreds of migrant workers employed by RAMCO went on strike, demanding their salaries be paid in US dollars. Different areas in Lebanon were engulfed in garbage as a result.

Three months later and 740 foreign workers employed by RAMCO have left Lebanon, since the company has been unable to secure their salaries in US dollars.

“Only 10 [foreign workers] are left,” Bou Saad said.

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