In Lebanon, an economic and political crisis with deep roots

Since October 2019 and the start of popular protest against an oligarchic regime still in place, Lebanon has been facing its worst economic and political crisis since the beginning of the civil war (1975-1990). Faced with this impasse and the poverty which threatens them, doctors, nurses, bankers, professors no longer believe in their future and decide to try their luck abroad.

Avoid health chaos

It was against a backdrop of economic, social and political chaos that on September 17, the Director-General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the regional director of the organization in the Eastern Mediterranean, Ahmed Al-Mandhari, visited in Beirut to take stock of the very degraded health situation affecting the entire country. Even if the Sars-CoV-2 epidemic precipitated things, this deterioration had started long before and is part of an economic and political context threatened a little more each day of collapse.

At the end of their visit, WHO officials alerted to the exodus of health workers after estimating that 40% of doctors and 30% of nurses had already left the country temporarily or permanently.

Explosion of the port of Beirut: a tragedy added to an unprecedented economic crisis

Since the explosion of the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020 which left 218 dead, more than 6,500 injured and considerable material destruction since entire districts of the city were destroyed, the economic crisis that has raged since the beginning of the year 2019, was further accentuated.

Shortages of fuel oils and drugs are sorely needed and prevent the functioning of hospitals which “operate only at 50% of their capacity”. To remedy this dire situation, Minister of Health Firas Abiad wrote on October 9, 2021 on his Twitter account “The four big challenges facing the health sector: the shortage of drugs and medical supplies, the high cost of hospitalizations, the migration of medical nurses.”

This crisis, which particularly affects the medical sector, is part of a general context of economic decline which is reflected in a contraction of the GDP, a depreciation of the currency and galloping inflation which amounted to 84.8% for the year alone. 2020.

The supply difficulties which afflict the country today do not only concern the medical sector, but affect all areas of economic life. The popular classes, but also the middle classes are affected; more than 900,000 Lebanese are no longer able to obtain basic necessities and half the population lives below the poverty line.

Since 2019, many protest movements have erupted to demand the departure of a political class deemed corrupt and responsible for the bankruptcy of the country. The explosion attributed to the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which remained in the port for more than six years, without any security measures having been taken, only reinforced the anger of the people who directly accuse the ‘State of neglect while the investigation is struggling to move forward in a context where three former ministers have requested the withdrawal of judge Tarek Bitar, in charge of the case. This news, which did not fail to arouse the indignation of associations close to the victims, was however rejected by the Court of Cassation who authorized the judge to continue the investigation.

The weight of the political system which does not renew itself

This endemic corruption which plagues the country is favored by the construction of the political system which is based on the sharing of power between religious communities.

In addition to the community dimension which makes governance very complicated, there is a dynastic system which does not allow the renewal of political elites. Access to power has long been padlocked in a blocked system where no candidate carrying opposing programs can make his voice heard and where the renewal of political elites seems possible only through the promotion of offspring. This situation is not new since since the 18thth century and the Salam dynasty to the more recent one of the Hariri family, political power is passed on in the family.

This dynastic drift, which results in the reproduction of the same power by the “big families”, is always better supported when the economic situation of a country is stable. But, as soon as the difficulties emerge, the inclinations for change arise. Today, grievances are increasing against a power deemed fraudulent and the vast majority of Lebanese are calling for the overhaul of the political system in its entirety.

If some denounce corruption, immobility and fight for a radical change in political organization, others give up the fight, preferring the exodus. It is true that the material difficulties that the Lebanese encounter on a daily basis and the few prospects for change for a better future, explain this emigration which goes far beyond the sector of medical personnel.

Part of a very large migratory wave, the brain drain affects all fields of activity and more and more qualified workers are seeking to leave the country. According to the magazine International mail which uses the official figures quoted by the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, no less than 260,000 passports have been issued since the start of 2021, which represents an increase of 82% if we compare this figure with that of 142,000 the previous year at the same period.

The observatory of the Lebanon crisis carried out by the American University of Beirut estimated that this crisis could be registered in the long term and that this migratory wave was one of the most important in the history of the country after those which occurred between the end of the 19thth century and the First World War, then that which had affected the country during the civil war (1975-1990).

Last Thursday, bloody clashes hit Beirut again (AFP video).

Emmanuel Macron, who was keen to show himself alongside Lebanon in this crisis, even if it means “doing too much, as usual, and with odious manners”, confides a shocked Lebanese “in love with France” and remained at Beirut is certainly aware that the French Embassy has appealed to Lebanese caregivers to compensate for the shortage of staff in French hospitals, chronic but aggravated by the suspension of those who refuse compulsory injection. Is it really up to the stakes and what history and the innumerable links, but first of all emotional, which today bind our country and “the land of milk and honey” deserve?

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.