Thursday, January 02, 2020

Lebanon Protests

Lebanon is clearly a highly unequal place where nearly a quarter of income is held by the richest 1 percent, a larger share than in, for example, South Africa and the US.  Citizens in Lebanon are denouncing today's elites using their wealth to capture government and mould policies to their will. 

Economist Nisrine Salti recently connected rising poverty levels to the unfair tax system. Facundo Alvaredo, Lydia Assouad and Thomas Piketty have identified the Middle East as the most inequitable region of the world, arguing for a closer examination of fiscal injustices to determine the true extent of inequality and their roots in subverted policy-making. Unjustly levied taxes are part and parcel of the model of government denounced by protesters in Lebanon for sustaining the wealthy, their banks, and the political system at the expense of the majority.

Poverty is staggering and is well recognised as the outcome of public policymaking driven by elite interests. This is why protesters no longer call for small policy reforms but are demanding a radical transformation of the political system. 

Unlike older generations, today's protesters are unwilling to compromise, unafraid to defy, and outraged by structural inequalities that they associate openly with crony capitalism, sectarianism, patriarchy, and homophobia. They have loudly made their points clear in marches, chants and graffiti. Their complete loss of confidence in government has made #no_trust one of the most trending hashtags.

But the most precarious populations - refugees, migrant workers, and the poorest Lebanese families - have not been able to join the protesters. Effectively disenfranchised, they have neither been able to visibly join the protests nor demonstrate their anger. 

Precarious neighbourhoods are overflowing with people who cannot find alternative shelters in cities ravaged by the financialisation of land.
Once considered self-help neighbourhoods in the making, on a trajectory to become legitimate parts of the city, informal urban settlements have become reservoirs of populations deemed superfluous, with no recognised entitlements.
Owing to climate change, downpours are heavier and their effects on precarious neighbourhoods are more dramatic. Roofs have crumbled, a family died and homes have overflowed. Their enforced silence means the protesters only represent the very tip of the iceberg of deprivation.

Nationality and parental income effectively define someone's lifelong access to adequate healthcare and education - or lack thereof. Some divides cross borders; women are at a disadvantage everywhere. Beginning at birth, inequity defines the freedom and opportunities of children, adults and elders.

Through taking to the streets, Lebanon's protesters have woken up a nation. By plotting a path of prosperity for all, they can lift it up. 

Taken from here

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