Opinion and Editorial

Lebanon remains stuck as economic collapse continues

Christiane Waked
Filed on November 27, 2020

Marwan Abboud, governor of the city, said the damage is so extensive that it could take $10-15 billion to put Beirut and its people back on their feet again.

The Lebanese will mark the end-of-year holidays with great agony as they are yet to recover from the shock of watching half of their capital Beirut being destroyed or damaged in the August 4 explosion at a port warehouse which left 300,000 people homeless.

Marwan Abboud, governor of the city, said the damage is so extensive that it could take $10-15 billion to put Beirut and its people back on their feet again. The growth rate of gross domestic product, estimated at 14 per cent before the Beirut blast, has been forecast to contract 24 per cent in 2020, leading to an economic recession. The losses for the financial sector have exceeded $100 billion while some experts estimate that Lebanon would now require a recovery plan of $63 billion against the $26 billion at its disposal. According to the experts, all Lebanese banks are now insolvent.

Lebanon, which is the third most indebted country in the world, is still facing its worst economic crisis and requires a serious roadmap that Lebanese officials are still failing to provide. How could Lebanon get back on its feet if the same corrupt and unscrupulous leaders who failed to manage the country are still in office and led by the fourth time Prime Minister Saad Hariri?

The latter had chaired the Lebanese Council of Ministers on three occasions, in 2009-2011 and then in 2016. His last experience ended with a resignation on October 29, 2019, under pressure from an unprecedented protest movement, only to be back again now.

While Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is one of the Arab world’s longest-serving politicians, having being in the position since 1992, people believe the politician and his family have made fortunes while in office.

The Lebanese, who are stuck in what seems to be an endless crisis struggling to put food on the table, are once again looking up to a foreign saviour to rescue them from a maelstrom of misery. French President Emmanuel Macron, who after the explosion stepped up to play that role, has expressed on several occasions that the only alternative to the imminent collapse of Lebanon is a French roadmap presented on September 1, 2020.

Macron, while ensuring his government’s support, announced recently that an international humanitarian aid conference for Lebanon will be held in Paris on December 2. This conference was initially scheduled for mid-October and then mid-November when the Lebanese government should have been formed.

This international meeting will probably be held without a functioning government in Lebanon.

Due to the circumstances imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, it may be held virtually with the sole purpose of rescuing the Lebanese population. This aid is much needed in the face of a socio-economic collapse expected in the coming weeks with the end of a programme of subsidy for the purchase of basic necessities.

While the Lebanese are grateful for any help, what the population needs now are jobs and not just food rations. More and more young Lebanese are immigrating looking for better opportunities, leaving the country in the hands of greedy and sectarian officials and their partisans, which is a dangerous proposition.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut.

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