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Lebanon shop owners plan to reopen despite coronavirus lockdown | News



Beirut, Lebanon – Merchants and business owners in Lebanon plan to defy a coronavirus lockdown, saying they can no longer afford to keep their shops shut amid a deepening economic crisis that has plunged more than half of the population into poverty.

“We will not be able to keep our stores closed for another day due to the terrible economic situation,” said Nicolas Chammas, chairman of the Beirut Traders Association, which on Monday requested the Ministry of Interior to allow the return of commercial business activity from Wednesday.

“We asked the government to weigh the economic costs as it did the health risks,” Chammas told Al Jazeera.

Also on Tuesday, Tony Rami, head of the syndicate of restaurant, cafe and club owners, announced that they too would defy the lockdown order.

“We will not close our doors after today, nor will we pay a single penny before there is a new country that knows how to invest our money,” he said in a televised news conference.

“Civil disobedience has become an acquired and legitimate right. Our losses are estimated at $1bn,” he added.

Starting on August 21, Lebanese authorities imposed a 17-day lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic after the number of confirmed infections spiked in the wake of a massive explosion that ripped through Beirut on August 4.

To date, Lebanon has officially registered 13,255 COVID-19 cases and 126 related deaths. 

While most shops in Beirut have been closed, some remained partly open during the lockdown [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Authorities have also enforced a daily curfew from 6pm to 6am and banned all social events, with bars, restaurants, nightclubs and gyms ordered to remain closed.

However, the airport, grocery stores and pharmacies have been allowed to operate while aid and relief work in areas affected by the explosion – which killed some 200 people, wounded thousands and left about 300,000 homeless – have been exempt from the coronavirus-related restrictions.

Chammas said the introduction of exemptions had left merchants and traders feeling that the lockdown order had “punished” a sector struggling with currency depreciation and steep inflation among others.

The devastating explosion at Beirut port has only sunk the country deeper into a state of instability – but the prolonged and deteriorating economic crisis had already taken a heavy toll on the Lebanese.

“Estimates reveal that more than 55 percent of the country’s population is now trapped in poverty and struggling for bare necessities,” the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia said last week.

‘Trade sector punished’

Chammas said the association’s reopening decision was also due to the lack of financial aid given to sustain businesses, and because most owners needed a daily revenue “to put food on the table”.

“It is for these reasons that we are compelled to reopen tomorrow,” said Chammas, expressing hope that the government would consider a proposal made by the association to allow reopening for six hours.

Business, shops plan to reopen despite lockdown order

While most shops in Beirut have been closed, some remained partly open during the lockdown [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

A source within the Ministry of Interior told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that meetings with syndicates were still continuing and a decision about the request to ease the lockdown was being discussed.

“We have asked all the syndicates to provide us within two days with proposals detailing how they aim to impose measures that will curb the spread of the coronavirus,” said the source, who wished to remain anonymous as he was not authorised to comment on the matter.

“We want them [business owners] to be our partners in the decision since there is a real worry the virus will spread,” the source added, noting that with four hospitals no longer operating after the explosion, Beirut’s healthcare sector was too stretched to cope with a severe COVID-19 outbreak.

The source said he expected the ministry to announce its decision to ease, rather than completely lift the lockdown, within the next few days.

But Chammas said business owners would not wait.

“Shops and businesses are going back to normal business hours on Wednesday – either way,” he said, adding that they will take necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Bilal Ghandour, the owner of two jewellery shops in Beirut, admitted he had already been defying the lockdown order – and planned to continue doing so.

“To be frank, we have been forced to keep our shops open over the past few days, despite the police fining us,” said Ghandour.

“We are barely breaking even and no one is supporting us,” he said. “I will be open tomorrow. How else can I put food on the table?”

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

Source –

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