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The Beirut port after the August 4 explosion. Photo by Arthur Blok

Lebanon’s Road to Nowhere

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.

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11 comments

  1. Lebanon is a patient in a coma about to die.
    Nice but sad analysis Alberto.

    • Alberto De Luca

      Unfortunately true, Makram. And the only force that can bring the patient to life, I believe, is the will of the Lebanese people to actually change things. Let’s hope in that!

  2. Excellent article and very true and sad

    • Alberto De Luca

      Thanks Joelle. And yes, it is extremely sad. Even for a foreigner like me that has been living and loving this Country and its people so much.

  3. Angel NicGillicuddy

    I wish you the best. ?
    I just wonder why nobody,
    including yourself,
    mentions
    declaring demurrage on The US dollar.
    If you don’t know what that means
    there are about 130 articles
    on this very site
    the-levant.com
    under the header ‘Angel’
    so that even a child could understand.
    I have been suggesting it for two years,
    and in many cases
    particularly in regards to Lebanon.
    I am here if you have any questions.
    Start the discussion about
    declaring demurrage on The US dollar.
    At least then
    the children could grow up hearing
    and learning
    about a solution.
    Do it especially now
    before the DAVOS meeting.
    I am here to help you.
    Angel NicGillicuddy ?

    • Alberto De Luca

      Thanks for your comment. Yes i am well aware of the concept of demurrage on fiat currency (in this case the US dollar) and i find it a very interesting concept that deserves serious consideration. However the current situation of Lebanon is on the verge of emergency and essential needs are to be addressed as a priority, as poverty is now hitting unprecedented figures. The process of declaring demurrage is a very long one. Lebanon cannot wait.

      • Angel NicGillicuddy

        Lebanon needs money.
        And in fact
        the money
        is already there.
        Just hiding and
        corrupting.
        Declaring demurrage on
        The US dollar
        is the fastest way to get that money out of the hands of
        bad desperate actors.
        DAVOS is about to make a BIG decision. We
        should at least try to put the message about declaring demurrage on The US dollar in plain view
        where they must respond and everyone will see their response. Then
        the discussion will begin,
        and the young people will hear
        something they’ve never heard before.
        What is your suggestion?
        If it involves the same old traditional hoardable money
        then The Dark Forces will
        benefit in the long run
        and the children
        (next generation)
        will take the hit.
        It’s been like that for 1000’s of years.
        What is your suggestion?
        Angel NicGillicuddy ?
        I’m here to help
        if you would like to continue the discussion.

  4. Another amazing article by another friend of Lebanon! Well done mate…. excellent article.
    Very true but sad on the other side…There are so many problems in Lebanon

    • Alberto De Luca

      Thank you Steven. You are totally right. So many problems in Lebanon. In this piece i am just scratching the surface. I will be writing soon some other article to explore more details about this multiple crisis.

  5. The people of Lebanon seem to be in a vicious circle of misery and hardship which has been worse since the recent situation and failing leadership. We can only try to support the people and hope that there will finally be some light at the end of the tunnel.

    It’s a well written piece which makes you go through all kinds of emotions.

    • Alberto De Luca

      I really appreciate your words Patrick. Yes there are lots of emotions going on in this period in Lebanon. My hope is that the people of Lebanon will be able to translate this suffering into real change. And see the end of the tunnel, as you say.

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