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Lebanon's political system needs an overhaul

Christiane Waked
Filed on January 15, 2020 | Last updated on January 15, 2020 at 07.33 pm

Daily protests, however, haven't yielded to any change on the ground.

It's been three months since the Lebanese have been out on the streets protesting for better governance and reforms in the political system, the lack of which have pushed the country to the brink of bankruptcy. The corrupt, sectarian oligarchy has to make way for a political system that values merit over religious divides or other such distinctions.

Daily protests, however, haven't yielded to any change on the ground. The state, at the moment, appears helpless and incapable of managing the crisis, which is making the situation worse. Financial markets are in a tailspin and there is a general lack of trust in the economy domestically and internationally among investors.

It came as no surprise when rating agency Fitch downgraded Lebanon's ratings further in mid-December last year. Lebanon was rated CCC in August and now it is CC, which essentially an indicator for international investors. It means it is too risky to invest in the country's bonds and investments. International banks usually abstain from investing in CCC-rated bonds.

Lebanon is the third most indebted country in the world, and recently it lost its voting rights at the UN General Assembly because of non-payment of dues for the last two years.

The political gridlock persists and there is no consensus as yet on the next government. Political leaders are plagued with the general apathy towards the country it seems. Nabih Berri, who has been the speaker of the Lebanese Parliament since 1992, cares little about the demands of the people. Berri has been insisting on a government of techno-political nature - which essentially means a cabinet composed of a mix of politicians and experts.

The Lebanese have been leading a humiliating life. Power outages have become a norm. Students are taking blankets to schools as heating systems are no longer effective for the lack of electricity. Commutes have become a chore due to poor infrastructure, and it gets worse with it pours. The Lebanese have to wait for hours in queue to withdraw money from the banks, and even then there are limitations on the amount that can be withdrawn.

Meanwhile, supermarkets have doubled, and in some cases even tripled, the prices of goods because of lack of control. Hospitals are running out of medical supplies, which is most worrisome. A number of hospitals have suspended chemotherapy sessions, others can no longer conduct heart surgeries because of lack of stents and other supplies.

Even during the worst part of its long civil war Lebanon hadn't witnessed such dark times.

Poverty is taking its toll on people. Many of them are slipping into depression, and it is hard to say if things will improve anytime soon.

It seems like the country since the end of the civil war 30 years ago has been hijacked by a corrupted oligarchy that has drained its resources to the bones.

The Lebanese feel completely left out and have no one to turn. The inept attitude of the Lebanese officials discourages countries and international institutions from helping Lebanon improve its economy.

Lebanon needs honest and decent people who are able to put the interests of their country before their own, and devote themselves in the service of the country.

The people on the street are unsung heroes who have empathy. Many opened their doors for the less fortunate ones and lent a helping hand wherever they could. But it is time the country needs a government that will save the ship from sinking.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut



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