The year of Lebanon’s economic disaster

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“It’s a lot to happen to us in a single year, Don’t you think? “. Among crafts made by child souls, Nazih Fino |, tells the story of Tripoli, which is the history of Lebanon. The second city of the country is the most impoverished in Lebanon but not only because of the systematic neglect of the Lebanese Government, but also because this damn 2020. “Economic devastation, mass protests, financial collapse, coronavirus pandemic, and finally a devastating explosion – all in a single year.” A few days after the first anniversary of the “October 17 revolution” of which Tripoli was a model city, the image is different. “We’re worse than hopeless“, he notes the director of the NGO Seed National.

Of the nearly seven million people in Lebanon, more than half are below the threshold of poverty. The economic crisis does not understand religious sects, almost acting as a unifying element between the 18 communities recognized by the Lebanese Constitution and among those that share the political cake. “Things were bad when the dollars started to go down, but then the coronavirus arrived and the banking crisis “that makes it impossible for many to withdraw their savings from their checking accounts, explains Fino.” people who had money in the bank now he is poor, “he says.

The devaluation of the Lebanese pound in a 80% it has made practically all those families that receive their salaries in this currency to border on poverty. Meanwhile, the prices keep going up: the price of food has increased by 367% in one year; furniture and household objects, 664%, and clothing and footwear, 413%. Increasingly, elongated hands fill the Lebanese streets pleading for charity. His wrists are dwindling as famine is already sweeping through the country that has lost anything close to a middle class.

“If they don’t work, they don’t eat”

“Due to the economic crisis, many people have lost their jobs,” laments the director of Seed National in reference to the more than 200,000 new unemployed this year in Lebanon. “Most businesses in the country are not officially registered, so they don’t have insurance,” explains Fino, “if they don’t work today, they won’t eat tomorrow; As simple as that“With salaries that continue to decline, especially in the local currency, the situation is bordering on economic collapse. For example, the average salary of a Lebanese civil servant does not reach the equivalent of 500 dollars.

Added to this situation is an increase in coronavirus cases with more than 1,000 new infections daily. Hospitals, until recently considered the best in the region, face financial problems to survive in an environment where finding medicines has become a privilege for those who own dollars. The explosion in the port of Beirut that left almost 200 dead, 6,000 injured and 300,000 homeless affected several health centers near the port area.

Debt default

According to him world Bank, the tragedy caused by the storage of 2,750 tons of harmonium nitrate without adequate security measures caused losses in economic activity of between 2.9 billion and 3.5 billion dollars. Even without knowing the results of the investigation, the Lebanese know that rebuilding the public sector and recovery will require between $ 1.8 billion and $ 2.2 billion. But Lebanon, one of the most indebted countries in the world with 170% of its GDP, or about 80,000 million euros, in negative balance, is unable to support these figures. In March, the country declared its first debt default and requested assistance from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

“I don’t think everything can be improved unless we hit rock bottom,” Fino dares to say. But that fund seems imminent. In the coming weeks, the World Bank will withdraw its subsidies for basic goods. Following the collapse of the local pound, the institution has been using its depleted reserves to support imports of combustible, wheat Y medicines, especially now that Lebanon, an importing country, has lost its main port of entry for goods. “I think the real revolution it will begin when the Government stops supporting the economy in regard to bread, fuel, and medicines, “adds the tripolitan.

“The real revolution will begin when the government stops supporting the economy, “explains Nazih Fino

Waiting for help

In a Lebanon mired in darkness -the electricity cuts due to the lack of fuel have reached 22 hours a day-, its people work every day just to survive. “We have to wait and work until the dollar stabilizes“, Fino ironizes as if that were in his hands. For the country, there is a $ 253 million aid waiting, the sum raised by the international donor conference organized by French President Emmanuel Macron, but the absence of reforms and the political blockade prevent its disbursement.

As one of Beirut’s two main landfills threatens closure after reaching full capacity, Lebanese fear another garbage crisis. A few days after the first anniversary of the revolution, the ‘zaura ‘ -in Arabic-, the streets have been emptied of that transforming spirit that brought together protesters from different religious confessions demanding the end of the corruption and the sectarian system. For Fino, the revolution that is brewing will be of another kind. “When the government stops supporting the economy, there will be violence“.

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