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Lebanon’s public sector falls further into chaos and corruption

After waiting in line for hours to register his car at a vehicle licensing agency in a suburb north of Beirut, Amine Gemayel’s patience is running thin.

He has already visited the branch in Dekwaneh several times for what should be a simple procedure, without success.

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The only way to get his paperwork done any faster would entail breaking the law by paying someone off – a dilemma facing all Lebanese trying to access basic services as their public institutions buckle under a catastrophic financial crisis and perennial political paralysis.

“It’s a great burden on citizens,” Gemayel said. “I know that to complete my procedure I need to use a middle-man.”

The country’s public sector has long been regarded as bloated, lethargic and rife with corruption. It’s now falling into further disarray due to an economic crisis that has left some eight in 10 people poor, according to UN agencies.

Such an environment breeds corruption, said George Attieh, who heads Lebanon’s public sector watchdog. He accuses many government employees of using the growing disarray of the state to ask for bribes in return for issuing citizens’ crucial paperwork.

“The situation is incomparable to before the crisis,” Attieh said. “If I look to how it was in 2018 and how it is now you can’t recognize the public sector. There are much more complaints, hundreds of complaints … mostly about bribery and intentional delays by employees in order to impose bribes.”

Before the crisis, most civil servants earned salaries worth around $1,000 and up; today, most are earning around a tenth of that after a currency crisis led the Lebanese pound to lose more than 90 percent of its value.

Some public sector workers have since the beginning of November been staging an open-ended strike over better pay and living conditions.

Others simply can’t make it into work: A full tank of gas can eat up more than half of their monthly wage and benefits.

Attieh said fuel shortages have also made the watchdog’s work more difficult as on-site visits needed to investigate alleged corruption have become impossible.

“Under the table”

Most Lebanese now struggle to put food on the table and are seeking to permanently leave the country, according to a recent poll by US-based polling company Gallup.

To help its employees cope, Lebanon’s government has promised to triple their daily transportation allowance and provide public employees with an extra half salary per month, but has not yet done so.

It has also been slow to provide other forms of badly needed social assistance despite funding being available. The cabinet has not met for nearly two months amid a row over the probe into the August 2020 Beirut port blast, leaving it unable to implement measures demanded by the international community to unlock aid.

Outside the vehicle registration office in Dekwaneh, Roy Mghames, 20, was also waiting in line.

“You either come and wait like other people and they tell you to come back next week, or you get your things done on the quick,” he said.

“You have to give it to them under the table.”

The director-general of the Traffic and Vehicles Management Authority, Hoda Salloum, was herself charged with corruption, including illicit enrichment and wasting public funds in February 2020, allegation she denies. She was released on bail and remains in her position.

Salloum told Reuters she had worked to increase transparency at the public institution by digitizing procedures, but hourslong state power cuts and a shortage of funds to buy fuel for backup generators meant these systems were often offline.

Hers is just one of Lebanon’s public institutions which do not know if they will still be operating in a month’s time.

“We can continue our work till the end of the year,” she said. “Then, it’s up to God.”

Read more: Lebanese protesters block roads over economic meltdown

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Almarai signs an MoU with the Authority of People with Disabilities to train and employ them.

Almarai Company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Authority of People with
Disabilities to train, qualify and employ persons with disabilities. This came on the sidelines of
the First International Labor Market Conference, organized by the Ministry of Human Resources
and Social Development on December 13 – 14, 2023, at the King Abdulaziz Convention Center
in Riyadh.

The memorandum was signed by the Chief Human Resources Officer of Almarai Company,
Fahad Mohammed Aldrees, and the CEO of the Authority of People with Disabilities, Dr.
Hisham bin Muhammad Al-Haidari.

“This agreement comes within the framework of the company’s social responsibility program, as
Almarai employs more than 500 people with disabilities, which is one of the most suitable work
environments for them.” Fahad Aldrees said. Pointing out that Almarai has the “Silent Line”,
which is one of its production lines that is designated for people with hearing disabilities.

It is worth mentioning that Almarai supports over 300 charity organizations annually across the
kingdom that operate in the field of community development.

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Central Phuket Shopping Center Prepared Surprises This Christmas & New Year 2024

Central Phuket Shopping Center, the luxury lifestyle landmark o Phuket, invites everyone to celebrate Christmas and New Year 2024 in The Great Celebration 2024 Campaign. Joining hands with global partner ‘The Pokémon Company’, Central Phuket bring over Pokémon, the super cute character popular around the world, for all locals and international fans. The special campaign launch presents a procession of cute ‘Pikachu’ alongside with the giant Christmas tree for the first time in Thailand.
This December, Central Phuket prepared many activities for shoppers when visiting Phuket! Experience the “Surprise of the Day” with free Cotton Candy for our little ones, a sweet and fluffy treat, a special gift from Central Phuket. Bring your kids to enjoy this sweet treat every Saturday and Sunday throughout the month of December. Don’t miss the Christmas Carol that
everyone loves, little Santas spread freshness by singing together in the Christmas Carol activity. Plus, Christmas Live Music, the festival of joy is back! Celebrate Christmas in a luxurious and classy atmosphere, enjoying the music that will bring us joy. Also, there will be Christmas Troop, Santa Claus is coming to town! The Santa troop will spread happiness throughout Central Phuket. Lastly, Cake Workshop, workshop activity with Chef Sebastien’s IRON CHEF Thailand teaching how to make Christmas Vanilla Cake. A special activity for the Christmas season. Moreover, Central Phuket provides special promotion exclusively for international tourists throughout December 23 – January 24 including:

1) Get Free! Tourist welcome discount package valued up to THB 10,000.
2) Receive THB 100 Gift voucher when spending up to THB 2,500 per receipt.
3) Get to buy ‘Happy Holiday Collections’ special price: Pokémon 2-in-1 pillow blanket, tumbler, travel bag set, and keychain. Visit redemption counter for the price.
4) Exclusive for Grab Users get discount code up to 25% off* when traveling to participating Central Shopping Centers.
5) Receive famous Elephant Pants when spending over THB 5,000 in shopping center.
6) Get Free! H&M THB 100 gift voucher when booking any accommodations in Phuket with Agoda. Terms and conditions apply.

Central Phuket is a home of global luxury brands such as Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Saint Laurent. Exclusive for this season, Louis Vuitton launches a pop-up store located at Central Phuket. The design is inspired by the story of Damier or Checkerboard, the brand’s signature pattern. This classic pattern was created by Louis
Vuitton and his son Georges Vuitton in 1888 and has always been part of the design of Maison’s iconic items and concepts. Find clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories for men at the Pop-up Store from Louis Vuitton at Central Phuket, 1st floor, from today until 31 March 2024. And with over 500 renowned fashion brands and lifestyle shops ranging from local to international
well-known brands covering all categories, international shoppers will be able to find what they are looking for in Central Phuket.
Central Phuket is located in the heart of one of the world’s most famous beach cities, Phuket and await to welcome both locals and international visitors this holiday. Also, don’t miss one of the most joyful New Year Count Down events in Phuket city at Central Phuket Shopping Center on December 31, 2023.

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Saudi Fund for Development Provides $100 Million Development Loan for the Rogun Hydropower Project

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) Chief Executive Officer, H.E. Sultan Al-Marshad, signed a new development loan agreement with the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Kahhorzoda Fayziddin Sattor, through which SFD is contributing $100 million USD to fund the Rogun Hydropower Project, a landmark initiative that will enhance energy,
food, and water security, and foster sustainable development in the country. The signing was attended by the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Waleed Al-Reshiadan, and the Ambassador of Tajikistan to Saudi Arabia, H.E. Akram Karimi, alongside other officials from both sides. SFD’s development loan will help contribute towards a more sustainable and equitable food and water future for Tajikistan, while driving the country’s energy transition and climate resilience. The project aims to contribute to the national energy security and will help advance sustainable
development in the Republic of Tajikistan, by providing the renewable electricity supply to meet local demand and expand electricity production domestically and regionally, producing 3600 MW of energy. The loan agreement will also finance the construction of a 335-meter-tall dam, which will enhance irrigation capabilities and bolster agricultural activities across the country. Additionally, the project will improve flood protection through the construction of four hydraulic
tunnels for diversion and drainage. It will also provide clean and drinkable water to people through desalination, and help advance socio-economic development, by creating both direct and indirect jobs.
Importantly, this project also supports the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); specifically, SDG 2, Zero Hunger, SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, and SDG 7, Affordable and Clean Energy.
On this occasion, the CEO of SFD, H.E. Sultan Al-Marshad, said: “Today’s signing marks a major milestone in our shared journey towards a more sustainable future. With this landmark development loan, SFD is not just supporting Tajikistan’s energy future, but also its sustainable development and the well-being of its people. The Rogun Hydropower Project is a beacon of
hope for a bright future that is powered by clean, renewable energy. It will propel Tajikistan towards environmental stewardship and prosperity.”

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