Lebanon’s economic and political crisis worsened in 2021



In 2020, the world saw Lebanon recover from worsening crises: soaring inflation, civil unrest that spilled over from the previous year, unruly spread of COVID-19 and a deadly port explosion that devastated the country’s capital. . But what happened in 2021 was a return to crises at the institutional level – top-down rot.

After 13 months of the Prime Minister’s hot potato game following Hassan Diab’s forced resignation in August 2020, billionaire Najib Mikati assumed the top post in September. He formed a 24-person ministry and pledged to get the country back on track for economic recovery. But many Lebanese see Mikati and her immense wealth as “a symbol of an ancient and corrupt order,” FP columnist Anchal Vohra wrote in August.

Critics have argued that the prolonged political stalemate before Mikati’s reign is what ultimately ravaged the country’s economy: The World Bank recently reported that Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis could hit even the three most severe crises. serious in the world since the 1850s. The local currency has experienced triple-digit inflation rates and Lebanon’s GDP has fallen to 37%, an amount “usually associated with conflict or war”.

In 2020, the world saw Lebanon recover from worsening crises: soaring inflation, civil unrest that spilled over from the previous year, unruly spread of COVID-19 and a deadly port explosion that devastated the country’s capital. . But what happened in 2021 was a return to crises at the institutional level – top-down rot.

After 13 months of the Prime Minister’s hot potato game following Hassan Diab’s forced resignation in August 2020, billionaire Najib Mikati assumed the top post in September. He formed a 24-person ministry and pledged to get the country back on track for economic recovery. But many Lebanese see Mikati and her immense wealth as “a symbol of an ancient and corrupt order,” FP columnist Anchal Vohra wrote in August.

Critics have argued that the prolonged political stalemate before Mikati’s reign is what ultimately ravaged the country’s economy: The World Bank recently reported that Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis could hit even the three most severe crises. serious in the world since the 1850s. The local currency has experienced triple-digit inflation rates and Lebanon’s GDP has fallen to 37%, an amount “usually associated with conflict or war”.

Economic instability continues to have serious repercussions on the livelihoods of ordinary people. Almost three-quarters of Lebanese live below the poverty line, and fuel shortages have triggered blackouts throughout the year. As Vohra reported in September, Hezbollah could use the fuel shortage to win allegiance to those in desperate need of basic necessities.

Here are five Foreign police stories that helped define a critical year for the Middle Eastern country.


1. Lebanon’s failure is partly Macron’s fault

by Anchal Vohra, June 23

This year Lebanon marked the first anniversary of the Beirut Port Explosion, which occurred on August 4, 2020. As the world now knows, the event caused incredible damage to one of the ports busiest maritime routes in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 200 people. and causing approximately $ 15 billion in property damage.

For a while afterwards, it was hoped that the disaster might spur political change. French President Emmanuel Macron was the first political leader to visit the capital, embracing and mourning the people of Beirut standing among the wreckage. During the visit, he launched an ambitious initiative to help lift the former French colony from the brink. Yet since then, Vohra writes, “nothing has been achieved”.

The French roadmap for Lebanon seemed promising on the surface. This has encouraged the formation of a new government within 15 days, reforms of the power sector and other sectors most in need, and an early election, Vohra explains. But in the end, the plan strengthened the same elites as many Lebanese who many Lebanese say caused the problems initially.

“France’s reluctance to impose tough sanctions and inflict a cost on the political elite instead of just begging them to do the right thing was utterly naive and ultimately destructive,” Vohra writes.


2. Lebanon is at the end of the brain drain

by Anchal Vohra, August 9


Medical staff are pictured outside the American University of Beirut medical center in Beirut on March 17. Anwar Amro / AFP via Getty Images

The people crucial to Lebanon’s rebirth are the same people who are leaving the country en masse for the sake of security and livelihoods. Inflation has made it more difficult for citizens to purchase food and basic necessities against falling and inconsistent wages. As Vohra notes, 20% of Lebanese doctors have already left or plan to leave since 2019. And a recent poll found that 77% of young people want to leave, the highest percentage in the region.

Vohra describes the outlines of widespread discouragement among the Lebanese: “First anger, then despair, and now flight. … They do not hope for justice or change under a government led by the same political class.


3. Lebanon is the most urgent challenge in Europe

by Faysal Itani and Azeem Ibrahim, October 15

The mass exodus from Lebanon risks a potentially catastrophic refugee crisis for Europe, write Faysal Itani and Azeem Ibrahim, directors of the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy. It is a country with one of the highest numbers of refugees per capita: 1.5 million Syrian refugees and 500,000 refugees from elsewhere. Few countries outside of Lebanon have the level of security or stability to provide a safe haven.

This has caused a mismatch between ability and motivation, write Itani and Ibrahim. Economically, Europe can certainly share the task of welcoming the most disadvantaged people. “But politically? The 2015 refugee wave was extremely destabilizing for national and European politics, leading to increased support for far-right and neofascist parties across the continent and endangering the liberal democratic political order, ”they write. The European Parliament fears that a new wave of nationalism will emerge if more refugees arrive on its shores.


4. Lebanon loses a pillar of independent journalism

by Hussain Abdul-Hussain, November 20

In October, Lebanon’s oldest English-language newspaper, the Star of the day, closed its doors after a heroic race of almost 70 years.

Hussain Abdul-Hussain, the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief, remembers and mourns the hard-hitting narrative his team produced – from revealing plans for embezzlement at public institutions to engaging in an unlikely but successful feud with a Beirut-based Dunkin ‘Donuts on his anti- LGBTQ policies.

“The once bustling newspaper offices have been reduced to dust-in-the-dark archives,” writes Abdul-Hussain. “Its history is the history of Lebanon, reduced in less than 15 years from a promising country to a failed state.


5. Lebanese reformers trade the streets for the ballot box

by Tessa Fox, December 6

Despite decades of political stasis and government corruption, a new generation of political activists is helping to mark a new era of hope for the country. Journalist Tessa Fox profiles the biggest of these new activist groups: Minteshreen. Formed during the 2019 uprising dubbed the “October Revolution” and informed by previous generations, the group capitalizes on the country’s increased political engagement over the past two years to push for a more democratic state. once and for all.

They understand the setbacks: Lebanon is not fully a sovereign state, Hezbollah continues to stifle democratic advancement, and previous attempts by activists to overthrow the political elite have resulted in assassinations or the dismissal of an elective mandate. Yet the members of Minteshreen believe that now, more than ever, is the right time to plant the seeds of change because “these will be the years when we are fought very fiercely by those in power,” one told Fox. member of the candidate group for legislative elections. .

And maybe this time it will be they who will put Lebanon on the path to political redress.


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