The Levant News publishes voices from around the word from a wide variety of people with different political and social backgrounds. After stories from the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Italy and the United States today Alberto de Luca writes from Lebanon. A country suffering from an ongoing political and financial crisis hit hard by the Corona pandemic
Countless jokes have been made all over the world regarding everyone’s eagerness to leave the infamous year 2020 behind us and enter into a new year. As easily predictable, the expectations of a sudden improvement of the situation have not been fulfilled anywhere in the world.
There is this one Country where the year we have entered into looks clearly much worse than the previous one. I know this sounds hard to believe.
As you might have guessed, this Country is Lebanon.
Haunted by an extraordinary row of awful events, initiated with a profound economic crisis accompanied by social unrest, continued with the worldwide plague of the Covid-19, to reach its nefarious pinnacle with the blast of Beirut port on August 4th, 2020.
None of the above adversity have shown any sign of receding in these first weeks of 2021.
The Economic crisis is deepening by the day. On January 12th the Lebanese Lira was trading at the black market at 8.900 against the dollar.
Basically the only place where the US dollar is actually traded, as no one in his right mind would accept to sell dollars at the theoretical values (yes there are more than one) set up with great fanfare by the Central Bank and his governor, now known as Riad “Ponzi” Salameh.
Last year on the same day the dollar traded at 2.300. Meaning a devaluation of 74% of the local currency over twelve month.
The institutional void is deeper than ever. After the demission of the previous government in the wake of the August blast, the designated PM Saad Hariri (definitely not a fresh face in the Lebanese political arena) is still far from finding a solution.
Political parties seem to be unable to find any common base to form a government. Latest news say of a worsening of the relationship between the designated PM and the Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a fact that pushed even further any possibility of an agreement.
The ambitious plan of reforming the Lebanese political system set up by the French President Macron, greeted by the Lebanese people as a knight in shining armor during his visit in the roads of the devastated areas the days immediately after the August-blast, has drown in the complete indifference of the Lebanese political class.
The incompetent ruling class of Lebanon seems in fact completely uninterested in the suffering and the anguish of the Lebanese. Many foreign personalities have pointed out the astonishing behavior of the political elite, seemingly unconcerned by the emergency of the situation, but to no avail.
The blast at the port, that has caused more than 200 deaths and thousands of devastated buildings in an area of 5 kilometres of radius, is still without culprits after more than 5 months. A striking occurrence, considering that President Aoun had promised a conclusion of the investigation within 5 day from the blast. But words seem to be forgotten fast, in Lebanon.
On top of all that, the Coronacrisis has brought the Lebanese Health system on its knees, with hospital refusing to admit patients as there is not a single bed available and patients are obliged to make infinite calls from hospital to hospital, only to be told that there are no vacant places.
After a negligent laissez-faire during New Year celebrations, the government has now decided to impose the strictest lockdown ever registered in Lebanon, for 11 days from January 14th until 25th. Although probably unavoidable, this total closure of the Country is putting the final strain to thousands of families without essential resources and business that were already striving to survive.
As all this wouldn’t be enough, the good people of Beirut and its surroundings have been kept awake for more than one week by the never-ending humming sound of Israeli drones constantly flying above their heads. Never a good sign, if you ask them.
The question is: can it get any worse than this?
Alberto de Luca is an Italian journalist living in Lebanon for many years. He is a senior Political analyst of Middle Eastern affairs.