|Commerce group lends blast-damaged businesses a helping hand
|The Federation of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture provided financial compensation Wednesday to 46 people whose businesses were damaged in the series of explosions that have rocked Lebanon over the past few months.
These payments have been made possible by the Lebanese Solidarity Fund (ULSF) private sector campaign, which was established in response to the February 14 explosion that claimed the life of former Premier Rafik Hariri and 20 others. The fund has raised approximately $2.5 million. The biggest donors were BLOM Bank and Audi Bank, with contributions of $1 million each. The Bank of Beirut and Arab countries were other major donors.
The donation campaign was coordinated by a committee representing the Grouping of Economic Associations which includes the Federation Chamber, the Lebanese Industrialists' Association, the Beirut Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Lebanese Banks, the Insurance and Social Security Confederation as well as the Association of Lebanese Restaurants, Cafes, Pastry Shops and Nightclub Owners.
The committee assessed the damages caused by explosions at six different sites: Ain al-Mreisseh, Jdeideh, Jounieh, Kaslik and Sadd-Boushrieh. It also requested affected individuals to file their own reports detailing the damage their businesses had suffered, as well as the cost of repairs.
President of the Federation of Chambers and the Grouping of Economic Associations Adnan Qassar said: "The donations were contributions from the private sector like banks, commercial institutions and Lebanese people who wanted to help and support those who were financially damaged."
Qassar also thanked the Grouping of Economic Associations, which he heads, adding: "the strong will and unity of these associations made this campaign possible."
He said: "The Federation of Chambers is always ready to help its members."
While appreciative of these efforts, a number of businesspeople note that they are still hoping to receive additional compensation.
Hayat Azar, the owner of a damaged shop in Jounieh, told The Daily Star the compensation sum she received from the federation covered only a small fraction of her repair costs. "However," she noted, "at least the federation cared enough to raise a donation campaign to compensate us - unlike the Relief Committee which assessed the damages and disappeared."
George Chamali, the owner of an electric appliance shop in Jounieh, said he paid around $15,000 to repair his shop and buy new merchandise. He said: "The compensations I received from the federation only covered the repairing cost."
Chamali added that he was counting on the Relief Committee to compensate the cost of replaced merchandise in order for him to make a profit this year.
Of the 170 businesspeople whose locations suffered damage, 88 have received compensation since dispersal of funds began in June. The rest are expected to receive their compensation by the end of August.