The ongoing Lebanese Crisis
It is no foreign concept that the Middle East has maintained a reputation of instability and turmoil. However, Lebanon in particular has faced a significant amount of hardship in the last few years. Lebanon’s financial crisis began in the summer of 2019, as a result of public sector debt, bank illiquidity, political instability, and lack of economic growth. Thus, by 2019, Lebanon had reached its breaking point.
Essentially, the root cause of the Lebanese crisis is the lack of political competence. Lebanon is facing severe debt, and the banking crisis has resulted in restrictive measures that allow citizens extremely limited access to their money. Between 2019 a d 2020, inflation had rose by 88%. This inevitably resulted in nationwide distress. However, it seems that the government’s instability had catalysed the crisis that befell Lebanon. From 2014 to 2016, Lebanon was left without a president, after former president Michel Suleiman’s term had come to an end. Soon after that, president Michael Aoun came into power, backed by prime minister Saad Hariri. However, the government under Saad Hariri was accused of corruption, and had introduced the economic crisis in Lebanon. This led to his resignation in 2019. The mismanagement of debt is what essentially began Lebanon’s decent into crisis. Furthermore, the presence of Hezbollah – a Shia Islamist political and militant group has a significant impact on Lebanese politics. Neighbouring Sunni-Muslim countries have become increasingly wary about their relations with Lebanon, in response to Hezbollah’s domestic influence and relations with Iran. In summary, the Lebanese government has failed to create a stable, sustainable political system. This has allowed for corruption to prevail, and a lack of security measures. A key example of this was the tank explosion that took place on August 4th 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city. The explosion left the capital in a state of shock, as many people suffered the loss of loved ones, and the city faced billions of dollars’ worth of damage. Equally, this left the world questioning how a tank of explosive chemicals could be stored so poorly, and what this meant for Lebanon’s internal security.
The current situation in Lebanon continues to reflect this. Fuel and electricity shortages have made it even more difficult for citizens to perform day to day tasks – with people having to spend a vast majority of their day waiting in line to get gas for their cars. Social unrest continues, as evident by the gunfighting that took place on October 14th 2021, at a protest challenging the investigations into the Beirut explosion. The Lebanese pound has lost 90% of its market value in the past two years, leading to a reduction in imports. The World Bank has classified the Lebanese economic crisis as “in the top 10, possibly top 3, most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century.” The Lebanese people have endured years of political and social instability, and yet the future of Lebanon remains unclear. However, the current government led by President Michel Aoun seems to have faith that improvements will be made in the near future.