Will Lebanon need a miracle to prevent it from collapsing as a state? It appears so as the country’s currency continues to lose value, and is in danger of reaching a near-catastrophic level. But the country can be saved if its government and, most importantly, the people have the courage to tackle the main problems that continue to stall the country’s long-awaited rescue.
Last week, the lira, which is pegged to the US dollar since the end of the civil war in 1990, lost almost 70 per cent of its value from October last year. It briefly edged 7,000 liras to the dollar before rising slightly. On the black market, it is now traded between 5,000 and 6,000 liras to the dollar, an all-time low. The official rate is 3,200 to the dollar — more than double the regular rate of 1,500 in October when the protests began.
The protests continue as the government, dominated by Hezbollah and its allies, failed to stop the deterioration of the economy, which has been amplified by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lebanese system needs an overhaul. It might have worked when the country emerged from the civil war, but it is no longer viable.
Lebanon may well need a miracle to come back from the brink. As a start, it must resolve the issues that continue to plague its unique but downright messy sectarian-based system. That system is fertile for corruption as former warlords and militia leaders continue to call the shots and are unable to keep their hands off the public fund. They benefited from the government projects for the past three decades and as they, and their cronies, got richer while the people got poorer.
Therefore, uprooting corruption must be the priority of any government, Hassan Diab’s or his successor. And that needs to start with the Lebanese people who keep electing the same corrupt officials. The hope is that in the next election they would choose fresh faces who will sever ties with the old and tired sectarian parties.
Secondly, the government cannot work freely for the people and national interests as long as a powerful and heavily armed militia, Hezbollah, remains the key arbiter in drawing national policies. Hezbollah has hijacked the government for so long to protect its narrow and selfish interests and the interests of its foreign sponsor — Iran. It is time the Lebanese government worked for Lebanon.
Finally, the Lebanese system needs an overhaul. It might have worked when the country emerged from the civil war, but it is no longer viable. The new generation of Lebanese is fully capable of managing a new Lebanon, one that is secular and progressive.