Lebanon's summer of discontent during the pandemic

By Christiane Waked

Published: Sun 26 Jul 2020, 12:36 PM

Last updated: Sun 26 Jul 2020, 2:44 PM

The amazing jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald sang "Summer time and the living is easy." The lyrics narrate how beautiful and smooth summer time is, but in Lebanon people are experiencing quite the opposite during this season.
Summer time in Lebanon doesn't rhyme with easy, it is harsh, humid, suffocating, and quite unbearable.
The temperature in Lebanon can vary between 30 and 40 degrees centigrade during this time of the year, and humidity levels are unbearable.
Usually, we wait for the summer to arrive to get a tan and enjoy the beaches but with the deepening economic collapse, Covid-19, and the high cost of living, this year summer won't rescue us from boredom and heat.
Most of the beaches in Lebanon are private. Access to such places comes at a price, which was quite expensive even before the crisis. Now, they have gotten out of reach for a lot of us. People now can barely eat, affording such luxuries is out of the question.
The public beaches are usually filthy, unsafe, and unguarded. Few risk going there and those who do now are highly exposed to Covid-19 since there are no safety measures.
But staying at home incurs expenses too, like having to pay the electricity bill even if it is always cut, and also bearing the costs of fuel to keep the generators running.
Several demonstrators organised sit-ins last week in Beirut, as well as in Halba in Akkar, in front of the buildings of Electricité du Liban, the public office in charge of the country's electricity network, to protest against the rationing of electricity.
The Minister of Energy and Water, Raymond Ghajar, assured that the supply of current "will return to normal" on Wednesday July 22, specifying, however, that the distribution of the supply will not be directly "balanced at 100 per cent" between the regions. This means some regions will suffer more than others.
While everything in Lebanon is screaming recession, people from their side are easily falling into depression and the suicide cases are increasing.
Layoffs, unemployment, inflation, heat, no electricity, all of this are a recipe for bad mood and creativity is needed more than ever to find a way out.
Some vent through poetry, others create videos on Tik Tok, some paint, others write, cook, or indulge in gardening.
Summer is hard, Lebanon is hard but this is not the first time the country is facing serious woes and surely it won't be the last time, too.
But it is from Lebanon that came the symbolic mythical figure of the Phoenix, a firebird that rises from its ashes. The Lebanese will surely come out from this experience stronger and wiser than ever.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese government must prove its ability by managing not only the electricity needs of the nation but also controlling waste and water pollution and regulating the use of generators that seem to be in the hands of the corrupt and the powerful. But to be able to do that, it should figure out a system to fight corruption.
Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut

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