Beirut (AFP)

The World Bank on Wednesday called Lebanon to form a new government as soon as possible, on the 21st day of an unprecedented protest against the political class.

Since October 17, Lebanon has experienced an unprecedented popular protest against its ruling class, deemed corrupt, incompetent and sectarian, against a backdrop of acute economic difficulties.

The movement, which mobilized hundreds of thousands of Lebanese, all communities, led to the resignation on October 29 of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, but the formation of a new government is slow.

"The rapid formation of a government matching the expectations of all Lebanese is now the most urgent step," said the World Bank (WB) after a meeting of a delegation with President Michel Aoun .

In its statement, the WB warned against a "deeper recession" again, "because of growing economic and financial pressures" - the institution is already forecasting negative growth of 0.2% for the current year .

In case of deadlock, half of the population could sink into poverty and unemployment "increase sharply", warned the WB.

According to her, about a third of Lebanese already live below the poverty line.

For his part, the head of state assured that the next government would include "competent ministers and safe from any suspicion of corruption," according to the Twitter account of the presidency.

Michel Aoun added that 17 corruption cases were now the subject of judicial investigations, according to the presidency.

- "hasty" decision -

On Wednesday, financial prosecutor Ali Ibrahim filed a lawsuit for money laundering and bribery against an official at Beirut Airport, according to the National News Agency (ANI).

Other prosecutions were recently filed against former Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Audi Bank for illicit enrichment, and targeted former minister Fayez Chokr for "negligent performance of his duties".

The warning of the WB comes after the downgrade on Tuesday by the agency Moody's rating of Lebanon "Caa1" to "Caa2", a level associated with a high probability of rescheduling the debt.

The country is in debt of $ 86 billion, or 150% of GDP, one of the highest ratios in the world.

"The massive social protest movement, the resignation of the government and the loss of investor confidence have further weakened Lebanon's financing model," warned Moody's, who had already lowered the Lebanese debt rating of "B3" to "Caa1" in January.

For economist Nassib Ghobril, "Moody's made this decision hastily".

"Today there is an opportunity to see real change emerge in Lebanon, and the demands of the protesters are in line with those of the international community, whether it is the fight against corruption, good governance or the fight against corruption. financial consolidation, "he argued.

- "Non-denominational regime" -

This movement of protest does not dry up after three weeks of demonstrations.

On Wednesday, hundreds of schoolchildren and students broke ground while protesters staged sit-ins in front of public institutions.

In South Tyr, students blocked access to a school while in Beirut a sit-in was held outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Education, according to ANI.

In Jounieh, north of the capital, students gathered in the courtyard of the main public school, joined by other demonstrators, after being banned by their leadership from leaving the school, local media reported.

In Saïda and Nabatiyeh (south), students from the Lebanese University camped on the spot, calling on the authorities to consolidate weakened public education.

"We want a non-denominational regime," said a student at the microphone, in front of a banner "Revolution of October 17".

"We are ready to lose hours of study but not a homeland," wrote other posters of students at the University of Balamand, in Koura (north).

Lebanon is ranked 138th out of 180 in terms of corruption by the NGO Transparency.

© 2019 AFP