“Everyone wants to help!” US President Donald Trump tweeted on the eve of a United Nations donors conference by video, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday to raise emergency aid for Lebanon following last week’s massive Beirut Port explosion.
The world rushed to assist Lebanon with medical and food aid hours after the blast that killed 158 people, injured more than 6,000 and wrecked large parts of the capital city. As Trump said, the world, especially Gulf Arab states, wants to help Lebanon, but Lebanon must be willing to help itself first.
Lebanon is expected to lose at least 25 per cent of its GDP because of the explosion, which shut down the port, the busiest on the east of the Mediterranean. The country was already mired deep in an economic crisis that saw the national currency lose almost 80 per cent of its value leading to a record rate of unemployment, high inflation, and the loss of people’s savings.
The crisis was the result of decades of endemic corruption, particularly among the ruling political class. The government on Saturday said it will call for early elections, but that has not satisfied the people who took to the streets to demand real change.
Macron’s promise to the Lebanese
Macron visited Beirut on Thursday and promised the Lebanese people that the planned aid will not “go to corrupt hands.” He said Lebanon was in dire need of “profound” political reforms that would convince the international community that the aid would go to those who need it.
Sunday’s donor conference has thus tied the aid to tangible reforms of the financial and political systems, including transparency, uprooting corruption, and a feasible plan to fix the economy. These conditions seem difficult to attain, while the current political setup remains in place. The people who drove Lebanon to the abyss for the past 30 years cannot be expected to lead the country out of it. That is just pure fantasy.
Today is Lebanon’s moment of truth. Without the help of the international community, it will not be able to get back on its feet, at least not in the near future. The world, meanwhile, cannot continue to bankroll a failed system. Lebanon needs to help itself before it asks others for assistance. Sure, it will be a long and bumpy road to rehabilitation, but Lebanon must take the first step in not just rebuilding its capital city but also reconstructing its rotten system of government.