Countries facing crises frequently do not appear on the radar of the world media. The suffering of those living in Lebanon, a small nation of six million, is one example of the neglect of the news outlets.
According to the World Bank Lebanon Economic Monitor, the economic and financial ranks in the top 10, possibly top 3, most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century.
Lebanon, the host of a great many refugees from neighbouring conflicts, is sinking deeper into poverty. Many Lebanese blame the ruling class for the devastating, multiple crises plaguing the nation, including a dramatic currency with inflation growing to 281% between June 2019 and June 2021. An alliance of assorted religious and political factions have captured power among themselves and has come to govern almost entirely in their own interests, through a system of patronage and cronyism, enjoying years of state funding while public services fell into a state of disrepair.
There are severe shortages in medicine and fuel. Poverty has drastically increased over the past year and is now affecting about three-quarters of the total population according to the “Multidimensional Poverty in Lebanon: Painful Reality and Uncertain Prospects” report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). An even higher figure of 82% lives in multidimensional poverty, which takes into account factors other than income, such as access to health, education and public utilities.
The country has also now been drawn into breaking the sanctions imposed against Iran with its fuel shortages requiring Iranian oil supplies to be delivered. Lebanon’s security agencies have been raiding petrol stations and suppliers allegedly hoarding fuel. Lebanon's central bank subsidises medicines, fuel and wheat to keep them at the country’s official pegged rate of $1 to 1,500 Lebanese pounds. However, with its reserves is running dry. Fuel shortages and power cuts have paralysed businesses such as restaurants, shops and industry as well as vital services like hospitals. UNICEF’s executive director, Henrietta Fore, said that ‘more than four million people face the prospect of critical water shortages or being completely cut off from safe water supply in the coming days’. The reason for the acute water shortage was that there was no longer sufficient power to run Lebanon’s pumping stations and wells.
Lebanon has also now entered into an agreement with another diplomatic pariah, Bashar al-Assad, to facilitate the transfer of energy through Syria.
ESCWA last year, proposed for the richest 10 per cent in Lebanon, who held nearly $91 billion of wealth at the time, to fund the gap for poverty eradication by making annual contributions of 1% of their net wealth. Alas, a forlorn hope although it did not stop ESCWA Executive Secretary, Rola Dashti, repeating her call for the establishment of a social solidarity fund.
President Michel Aoun confessed that “The foiling of every plan proposed for financial and economic recovery, or the failure to devise it in the first place, means one thing, which is that the corrupt system that is still controlling the country and the people fears accountability and penalization.” He added, lamented that “the people are robbed and are being robbed on daily basis.”
Naturally enough, he exempted himself from his own condemnation.