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A country in free fall: what is the future of Lebanon? | Middle East

Lebanon, once the envy of the Arab world, has now become an empty shell with no end in sight.Its political system is deadlocked because its economy Perish Day after day, forcing its leaders to solicit emergency assistance from foreign countries to sustain their livelihoods, including Food for the Hungry Army.

But the Lebanese are a shrewd people, known for their hummus rather than humility, and until recently denied the severity of the crisis.

They are a group of hardworking, shrewd and entrepreneurial people. They have overcome two major crises in recent decades and are confident of their next comeback.

But this may well prove to be unfortunate the third time.

As we all know, they don’t have to impress people they don’t know with money to buy things they don’t need. Lebanese who “happy lives” have become so poor and isolated that there are almost no goods to buy, and few people can Impressed and very few hard currencies can be borrowed.

They are now living in the “shawarma paradox”: a national sandwich worth 5,000 Lebanese pounds or 2 dollars a few years ago, today is 20,000 pounds or less than 1 dollar.

But the Lebanese spirit continues to exist alongside the well-known Lebanese self-deprecating humor, which increasingly dominates Lebanese social media.

As a joke said: you must pray, otherwise you will experience two hells, in Lebanon and the afterlife. Another highlights the three options Lebanese have during the crisis: go to Hariri Hospital, leave through Hariri Airport, or catch up with (the late prime minister) Rafik Hariri in person.

In fact, Lebanon is a living, breathing paradox. This is a land of opposition; sectarianism and secularism, huge wealth and extreme poverty, ultra-liberals and ultra-conservatives. It is also known for its smartest intellectuals and dumbest entertainers.

The contradictions of the country are intertwined in the structure of the country. Although mainly confession, Lebanon’s contradictory characteristics transcend its religious beliefs.

It is painful to watch how these people, who are called the most practical and productive in the region, have become so completely impractical and counterproductive for their country.

However, what is certain is that the “Lebanon Paradox” may be a burden, but it may also be an asset.

It may be diverse, inspiring diversity and competition. It may polarize, sow hatred and infighting, as it does today, paralyze its political system and destroy the economy.

Historically, when the Lebanese first felt that the Lebanese were the first to be loyal to Lebanon and not to this or that sect (whether Sunni, Shia, Maronite, Druze, etc.), their diversity Become an asset. But when they put sects above the country, their pluralism turned into hostility, and competition turned into conflict.

In 1975, the country’s sect leader dragged the Lebanese into a devastating civil war, pitting neighbors against each other to advance their narrow interests. Soon after the end of the 1990 war, they continued to divide Lebanon by placing sectarian interests above national interests and wasted its potential for prosperity by plundering its wealth.

Unfortunately, it must be pointed out that if sect leaders do not enjoy a large following in their “community”, they will not succeed, although through manipulation and division, people feel safer as members of the sect rather than citizens of the Republic. .

By directly intervening between the country and its citizens, between the government and the ruled, sect leaders make themselves an indispensable part of managing national affairs. But their nepotism, corruption and total incompetence have destroyed the country.

With regional turmoil and global pandemics causing damage to Lebanon, coupled with the devastating explosion that shook the capital last summer, this became apparent.

This small country has suffered from Israel’s war and occupation for decades. In the past ten years, this small country has also been the first to bear the brunt of the Syrian war. The Lebanese Hezbollah wholeheartedly sided with the Assad regime and joined the conflict. This came at a terrible humanitarian price, as about 1.5 million Syrian refugees entered Lebanon.

In the process, Beirut has lost most of its prestige and appeal as an economic, cultural, tourism and media center in the past decade, lagging behind other major cities such as Dubai, Doha and Amman.

With fewer resources, fewer remittances, and fewer regional opportunities at their disposal, the cynical entrepreneurial elites turned inward and devoured the assets of the country and society with unparalleled cunning, including countless Lebanon. The life savings of the family.

The worse the situation, the more viciously these corrupt elites hold their power. Despite the nine-month political deadlock, protests and economic collapse, they refused to give up.

Today, thanks to two weary and cynical leaders at the helm of the country and parliament, plus an incompetent boy who walks in and out of the prime minister and a power broker hiding in his bunker, the country is going downhill – the latter’s loyalty abroad .

Although the people demand an end to the sectarian system they support, their political mechanization is too complicated for outsiders to interpret, but it is deeply entrenched.

But optimists, although they may sometimes have delusions, they did not give up.

Some people believe that a government composed of technocrats will inevitably break the current deadlock and better manage national affairs. However, if the country’s sectarian parties and leaders lack political will, technocrats cannot solve economic problems.

Others hope that direct international assistance and intervention can help the country overcome the economic crisis and provide the time and supervision needed for political reforms. They did not see that more poor countries are also competing for the same international aid. By the way, international aid is declining year by year.

Lebanon’s last international conference set Less than 300 million U.S. dollars, compared with the country’s 93 billion U.S. dollars in public debt, this is a drop in the bucket, compared with GDP, the latter is the highest in the world. The second donor conference next month will prove that it will not be more hopeful, nor will it lessen the insistence on radical reforms and international supervision of elections, which the country’s effective rulers continue to resist.

Then some people believe that Lebanese expatriates, who are more wealthy than citizens living in the country, can ultimately play an important role in revitalizing the country’s economy and improving its governance.

But for a country in a state of free fall, this is too optimistic. Attracting foreign investment, let alone moving back, requires more than just some reform commitments.

Then there are pessimists, although they may be dark sometimes.

Some sect leaders believe that in order to unite their followers before losing prestige and influence, the situation will deteriorate further.

They believe that the mentality of dragging the country into a civil war in 1975 continues to flourish in the country’s current sectarian system.

In fact, skeptics worry that as the economy collapses and the situation spirals out of control, violent conflict is likely to follow.

Last but not least, there are some people, let us call them “pessimistic optimists”, they want big deals between the region and Western powers after the Iran nuclear agreement is resolved; one includes reaching a political settlement in Lebanon The plan will pave the way for the benefit and investment of a larger region, especially Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region.

Although this rather far-fetched deal may calm the situation in the short term, it will only delay the implosion and consolidate all the mistakes in Lebanon’s history.

Therefore, the road forward cannot be backwards.

In fact, Lebanon has no viable alternative to Lebanon’s debilitating collapse.

This requires street people and civil society activists to support the real Lebanese Republic by organizing non-sectarian parties and helping to democratically change the vile sectarian system at the center of the country’s dilemma, transforming their popular and civic power into political power.

This may be difficult, or it may take a long time to complete, but there are no shortcuts and no simple magical solutions to build an effective democracy.

Even so, even after the initiation of democracy and reforms, there is no guarantee that Lebanon will get rid of sectarianism or prosperity, nor can it be guaranteed that Beirut will restore its charm and mystery as the regional crisis deepens and international competition intensifies.

But then again, the crisis is an excellent opportunity for real change. This dramatic Lebanese crisis provides a rare opportunity for democrats to attract countless angry and dissatisfied Lebanese to change direction and stand together for the country they love.

I may not be very optimistic, but I am always hopeful for Lebanese and Lebanese.



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