Tel Aviv After the explosion in the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut, the economic and political crises in the country intensify. Many angry citizens blame the government for the disaster on August 4th and demonstrated in the capital over the weekend. They accuse the government of postponing the country’s problems instead of solving them.
The demonstrators carried gallows with them, on which they hung up dolls commemorating decision-makers, or they broke into government departments. The distrust of the elite has become so widespread that over 60,000 Lebanese at home and abroad have signed a petition calling on the old colonial power of France to replace the government in Beirut.
One minister submitted her resignation because possible change for Lebanon is now “out of reach”. Prime Minister Hassan Diab has proposed early elections to his cabinet in order to restore citizens’ confidence in politics. However, new elections would only be possible in two months.
In Lebanon, the damage caused by the explosion is estimated at ten to 15 billion dollars. French President Emmanuel Macron and the UN have convened an international donor conference for Sunday. US President Donald Trump and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas have also registered for the video link.
First, the governments want to advise on emergency aid. Before billions of euros can be pledged for the reconstruction, Lebanon would have to implement reforms that are long overdue. Experts, however, doubt that Lebanon would be able to do this on its own. An agreement with the International Monetary Fund recently failed because the government refused to reform.
The reforms would not only include modernizing the neglected infrastructure, but also promoting productive activities. The country is particularly behind in the area of the digital economy.
The latest shock hits Lebanon in a desperate situation. As early as March, the state was unable to repay its foreign debts. The corona crisis has also had a massive impact on the country’s economy. Caring for the 1.5 million Syrian refugees – around 25 percent of the population – is also a burden on the economy.
A third of Lebanese people are unemployed – and the number will now continue to rise. The Lebanese currency has lost 80 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market since October, when a wave of protests against the government began. As a result of the rising prices, the middle class becomes impoverished and the poor are driven into misery.
Reforms, urgent as they are, are blocked by the political system. Iran-backed Hezbollah has consolidated its influence in Lebanon. The system, according to which the division of power in parliament and in government according to religious affiliation is fixed, is also outdated. Young Lebanese in particular are calling for the religious key to be abolished.
More: Neither the prime minister nor the president run the country. It is the head of Hezbollah who has a decisive influence on Lebanon’s national policy – in its own interest.