Nothing much seems to work in Lebanon. Electricity cuts are 3 hours a day in Beirut proper, about 12 hours a day in much of Dahiyeh, and so on for the rest of the country. The government ran a $2 billion deficit just last year, which is 4.5% of the country’s GDP. According to the Finance Minister, we’ll probably be up to a public debt of $52 billion, or 165% of GDP, by the end of the year.
In the meantime, there isn’t even a government nearly three months after the elections due to intra- and inter-coalition squabbling:
But Mr Hariri will have to face trouble from within his own camp, as well as from the followers of former general Michel Aoun, a critical opposition figure, who is demanding control of key ministries over the objections of the majority.
Although that battle has yet to resolve itself, Mr Hariri’s allies in the Kata’eb Party, a right-wing Christian movement yesterday also announced they would suspend, but not quit, their participation in the majority alliance, nicknamed “March 14”.
Leaders of the Kata’eb have criticised Mr Hariri’s willingness to work with Mr Aoun in any way and several of its members have been particularly aggressive in stymieing progress on the new cabinet, according to one of their nominal allies.
One Christian political figure, who asked not to be named, described many of the problems as personal, as political figures harass rivals from other parties and refuse to compromise on allocation of the ministries, as well as fermenting complaints that March 14’s financial backing is not transparent. Several Kata’eb loyalists appear to be demanding answers on how the alliance is funded.
The MP Akram Shohayib, a majority supporter aligned with Mr Jumblatt, said that the internal battles in March 14 are too dangerous to discuss in public. “If I told you what happens during the meeting of the general secretariat of March 14, the country will go to chaos,” he said, before refusing further comment.
In the meantime, telephone service is still sub-par and ridiculously expensive, electricity cuts continue, roads are in terrible shape, crime is increasing, public schools are a disgrace, and public transportation a joke. All this, while what’s probably the country’s biggest cash crop is being destroyed by the government instead of taxed.
This editorial from The Daily Star, then, seems right to me:
[W]e are left with a situation that borders on the insane. Everywhere we turn, we encounter tough-talking leaders who spew chest-beating bravado, but all the while the country remains on the verge of complete bankruptcy.
… The reality is that politicians show little concern for the local problems that have such a tremendous impact on the day-to-day lives of Lebanese citizens. Hizbullah champions the need to battle the Israelis, while several March 14 factions prioritize the need to shake off Syrian influence, but nobody is talking about the need to free this country from its self-imposed shackles of mounting public debt. Most politicians instead seem content to pass along the burden of paying off billions of dollars in debt and interest to the next generation of Lebanese citizens.
Perhaps the Lebanese flag should be changed, to better reflect the nature of the republic.