Lebanon is on the verge of famine, it’s an open secret. It is the consequence of an internal chaos instrumentalized by an overly interested political class, divided and eaten away by corruption but also by regional powers, especially Iran.
Physical aggression for the least food (milk, chopsticks…) causing economic collapse, a health crisis aggravated by a hospital system unable to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, three hours of electricity per day, tensions on the southern border with Israel, a dramatic drop in the purchasing power of the Lebanese, Redundancies linked to the health crisis and containment, an unemployment rate in the order of 30%, are all factors that characterize the moment of the Cedar country more than ever at the mercy of the total disorganization of its executive which no longer knows where to turn in order to counter the social and economic crisis that is hitting the country. In history it is the population that pays the heavy price, half of the Lebanese have fallen below the poverty line.
To this situation we cannot add but not without affliction a Lebanon in default of payment since March 2020, which means that it is sinking more and more each day into an economic crisis like never before. The Lebanese pound has collapsed by almost six times its value against the dollar (from 1,500 pounds for 1 dollar it has risen to almost 9,000) in a few months. Inflation is galloping and for a population, a good majority of which is dependent on its diaspora, it is easy to understand the chaos in which the country is immersed. Consumer prices are exploding, imported products, including food, are increasingly scarce in Lebanon. The latter account for about 6% of the country’s GDP, placing Lebanon’s $92 billion debt among the most dependent countries in the world.
Hezbollah, a member of the coalition, had long refused interference by the International Monetary Fund, before relaxing its position. Today it would accept it under certain nationalist conditions “that the reforms do not undermine national sovereignty”. The reticence is understandable in view of the IMF audits and their imperative of transparency, which should denounce the Hezbollah slush fund and its regional escapades such as the passage of arms and men into Syria. This is, moreover, the objective of Washington, the most consistent contributor to the monetary institution. What is at stake is 10 billion dollars from the IMF, which will dictate its reforms.
If the country manages to hit this jackpot on top of the 11 billion conditionally promised by Europe in 2018, Lebanon could hope for the light at the end of the tunnel. For the time being, it is sinking into the darkness of its power cuts and bathed in despair. For the first time in its history, many Lebanese celebrated Eid Al Adha without sheep. Indeed, with the currency plummeting from £1,500 to a dollar to almost £9,000 on the black market in just a few months, a sheep now costs nearly four times last year’s price. As if to make matters worse, Moody’s, one of the leading US rating agencies, downgraded Lebanon to C, the lowest rating.