Lebanon, stricken by poverty and in political stalemate, faced with the irresponsibility of its leaders

Analysis. In Lebanon, meetings between political leaders follow one another. In the comfort of their living rooms, Lebanese officials negotiate their future, without worrying about the fate of the land of Cedars. Visitors file past, blockages persist. Three months after the end of General Michel Aoun’s mandate, on October 31, 2022, Lebanon is still without a president. A council of ministers is sometimes convened to expedite current affairs. Parliament now only meets to record, at regular intervals, the lack of consensus on the future executive. There was no sense of urgency, even though pressure from abroad increased with the holding of a first meeting in Paris, on February 6, between France, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt.

International pressures had no effect on Lebanese officials. It does not matter that the country has been sinking for three years into an economic and financial crisis which has already plunged more than 80% of the Lebanese into poverty and has completed the dismemberment of the State, its institutions and its services: the community leaders are seeking to to gain time to find the formula that will guarantee everyone their political survival and that of the system of predation that they have built on the back of the State since the end of the civil war in 1990, with the complicity of an oligarchy of bankers, businessmen and judges who assure them of impunity.

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This system no longer even offers the Lebanese the minimum: access to electricity and water, health and education. With the 90% devaluation of the Lebanese pound, the salaries of civil servants are no longer worth anything. The Lebanese army, the only institution that still ensures national cohesion, pays the balances thanks to donations from Qatar, and soon from the United States. Only the “dollarized” – Lebanese and expatriates who receive an income in foreign currency or have assets abroad – can afford, at great expense, the illusion of a normal life in the bubble of nice neighborhoods.

Informal business transactions

On a daily basis, a majority of Lebanese survive on their own, between payments from community parties, aid from NGOs and, above all, money sent by relatives, more and more of whom are going into exile abroad. The World Bank estimates that in 2022 remittances from abroad represented 38% of Lebanon’s GDP, compared to 14.4% in 2019. The NGO Mercy Corps estimated, at the end of 2022, that they are the only source of income for 15% to 30% of households. Once-affluent working people and retirees also depend on it: their savings are stuck in banks and eroded by currency depreciation. Since the fall of 2019, banks have been imposing informal capital controls in response to the liquidity crisis, hoping to stave off their own bankruptcy.

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