Lebanon has recently suffered from an economic crisis, coincided with popular protests, forcing the government of Saad al-Hariri to resign. The new administration did not succeed in forming a national unity working for the country and its people, as Prime Minister Hassan Diab is known for its loyalty to Iran and connections with Hezbollah and its allies in Lebanon.
The deterioration in the economic situation has worsened with the coronavirus situation and its effects on internal, regional and international levels, forcing the protesters to calm, but apparently not for too long.
Lebanese banks are still imposing measures, according to which depositors are not allowed to withdraw their money in US dollar, amid absence of any clear economic plan by the government formed around 100 days ago.
For the third successive day, protests took place in the Lebanese street against the economic and social situations, despite the general mobilization imposed to combat the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
A number of activists have organized a symbolic sit-in in front of the Ministry of Communications, demanding the re-nationalization of the telecommunications sector.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Lebanese cities of Tripoli, Aley and Saida have witnessed popular protests in the past few days, conducted with slogans like “Life’s Demands”, where in Tripoli clashes between the army and protesters took place and resulted in injuries among protestors.
Warning and Threat
The former Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs, Richard Kouyoumjian, has warned of a significant deterioration and more poverty and unemployment in the coming period due to economic circumstances, because the government has not yet moved towards asking for financial aid.
“A huge collapse is looming with more poverty, destitution, bankruptcy and unemployment. May God help the people,” the former Minister, representing the Lebanese Forces Party, tweeted.
“What is the government waiting for asking for assistance and intervention of the international monetary institutions to save Lebanon and its people? Even talking about structural reforms, strict measures and economic plans will be useless after a short time,” the minister added.
“The government was given a period of 100 days to set an economic plan for saving the country, but unfortunately we have not yet seen a clear plan, neither we witnessed the start of a reform process.”
Ghassan Hasbani, Deputy Prime Minister and former Health Minister, confirmed to Al-Ain News that the reform plan of Hassan Diab’s government would fail, and at best scenarios, the reforms will be replaced with the government’s interests.
Hasbani clarifies that the failure of the reform plan would be attributed to the fact that the government is lacking internal and international support because it is dependent on and controlled by Hezbollah militias.
This attack against the current government was not confined to the opposition streams or former ministers, it is criticized by allies as well.
The Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, asserted that the government should not remain a spectator, or witness to the financial chaos, claiming that it should not be allowed letting people starve.
“The true social security umbrella for the Lebanese people now is an initiative by the government before it is too late, exercise its legal and procedural powers with the aim of stopping the dramatic collapse in the exchange rate of the Lebanese Lira,” Berri added.
Indications and Looming Danger
The financial crisis was the topic of a meeting between the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon Riyadh Salameh, the Prime Minister Hassan Diab and the Minister of Finance, Gazi Wazni.
Salameh then met with President Michel Aoun to discuss the instructions of the Central Bank Governor, stating that they would be indicators that the whole region could witness significant changes, especially that Lebanon would be linked to the Syrian crisis, which foreshadows a critical drop in the exchanging price of the Lebanese Lira, too.
Although the crisis already emerged months ago in Lebanon, its impact has increased with the popular uprising erupted on October 17, 2019.
This February, Lebanon started its fight against the Corona pandemic, imposing measures that led to the closure of the remaining businesses and institutions, doubling the numbers of unemployed.
On April 22, Minister of Industry Imad Hoballah, during the launch of his ministry’s plan to enhance the industrial sector, stated that the poverty rate in Lebanon has reached 55% based on the World Bank’s estimates, and that Lebanon would be suffering from unemployment, a liquidity crisis, and a deficit in the trade balance.
It seems that everyone in the Lebanese political system is searching for a “sacrifice” that could be held responsible for what is happening. Political scores and balances play a significant role in determining that character.
Some parties point their fingers to the banks, which were already attacked several times and threatened by the public anger due to their latest measures.
Others point their fingers to the Governor of the Lebanese Central Bank, while a third party wants to transfer responsibility to the opposition parties, particularly the Progressive Socialists, the Future and the Forces parties, as well as Amal Movement.
Each party in Lebanon is trying to gain an international initiative to support it, the current government and President Aoun count on France and its ambassador’s activities in the domestic arena.
The French Ambassador Bruno Foucher, demanding a dialogue with the political wing of Hezbollah, as it is represented in Lebanese politics, has met Prime Minister Diab twice within three days, aiming at solving the deteriorating budgetary situation of the country, as France stresses on preserving stability.
It is important to refer to a stance that opposes the French one, as the American ambassador, supported by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, says that Lebanon will receive no aid unless the government meets the demands of the Lebanese people, implements real reforms and adopts the transparency principle. Above all, Hezbollah should not benefit politically or financially in Lebanon, Pompeo said, whereas most of the EU-governments underline the necessity of dialogue with the political wing of Hezbollah, condemning only the military wing of the Iranian-controlled movement as being terroristic.
After all, the coming days could lead to further escalation and protests.