Lebanon has become the Venezuela of the Middle East

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Lebanon has been grappling with one of its worst economic crisis for more than a year, and many are starting to describe the cedar country as the Venezuela of the Middle East.

In a series of tweets in July, Lebanese Druze leader Walid Joumblatt wrote that he was alarmed about the economic and political situation in the country, which he compared to Iraq and Venezuela. Nevertheless, Joumblatt like many of the Lebanese politicians are forgetting that he was for many years an essential part of the problem, that he took part in successive governments that mismanaged resources of the country.

Today, these politicians have no scruples about what they did and shamelessly point their fingers at others, enjoying the blame game. Instead of finding solutions they are trying to find scapegoats in order to make people forget that they are as much guilty as the people they are shaming.

And now with Moustapha Adib, Lebanon’s prime minister-designate, resigning on Saturday amid a political impasse over government formation, Lebanon is being pushed to a dark and scary road.

Lebanon has the third most debt-to-GDP ratio in the world. The currency has lost much of its value, and there are three different exchange rates: The official one (£1,500 for $1), the bank rate (£3,850 for $1) and the black market (over £9,000 for $1). The latter climbs every day.

The salaries of the Lebanese who still have jobs are no longer worth anything while more than half of the country is unemployed and struggling to pay the rent. There are piled-up bills, schools fees, hospital bills, etc.

Many are finding it difficult to fund basic, minor expenses such recharging mobile phones or even pay for gas for their cars.

A woman, who was a biology teacher all her life, told Khaleej Times that she is now depending on the food rations that are distributed by some NGOs.

“I worked all my life and now I am ashamed that I have to wait for food aid distribution. It is as if I am begging,” said the woman.

More than 80 per cent of the food is imported in Lebanon, which has fuelled inflation by many folds. Oil, chocolate, butter, shampoos or meat are now luxury items. A regular sanitary napkin pad, which is a necessity for women every month, costs a whopping $17. 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun warned last Monday: “Lebanon is heading towards hell if a new government is not formed as soon as possible.”

The country was already struggling with its economic and social problems, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The recent explosions at Beirut port have had a crippling blow. Around 300,000 have been left homeless, 191 persons have died, and 6,000 injured.

The political leaders are expected to act responsibly in this crisis, but it seems a tough road ahead for the country. 

Finding scapegoats, blaming the other side, cursing on social media, and spreading hatred are only worsening the situation.

To be able to sort the situation out, everyone with no exception must sit together, put a plan to save the country taking in consideration the demands of the streets while putting Lebanon’s interest before anyone.

If things don’t get fixed, the Lebanese politicians will soon find that there is no one left to govern as many Lebanese are applying for immigration and many already left.

Lebanon deserve to be saved and everyone should fight for this beautiful country.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut


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