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Lebanon in the Pitch Dark

Lebanon in the Pitch Dark

Thursday, 30 July, 2020 - 10:30

Two days ago, Moody’s Corporation lowered Lebanon’s credit rating to C—its lowest rating—indicating complete failure. This happened two days after the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s visit to Beirut, which turned out to be an additional diplomatic catastrophe for the Lebanese government.

The new credit rating and the Minister’s visit, who emphasized that the international community will not help Lebanon if the authorities do not adopt clear economic reforms, mean that a solution to the Lebanese crisis will not be found anytime soon and that the citizens living under multiple catastrophic burdens will be left to their dark fate.

Much is being said about international credit rating agencies and their susceptibility to being employed politically in cross-border conflicts, however, their operations in Lebanon signify an increasing isolation of the country from the environment that it has been a part of since it was established one hundred years ago, i.e. the western economic environment and the climate of financial and commercial exchange that are mostly based on its relations with free markets, despite the pros and cons of the latter and its impact on Lebanon. The political authority did not make any efforts to establish economic alternatives capable of enduring this rapid withdrawal from a system that it has been entirely imbued in and did not prepare the Lebanese to embrace other economic models.

Lowering the credit rating, in this sense, does not only indicate a banking or financial problem but also means that the Lebanese socio-economic system that has been adopted by the ruling class for decades no longer functions and that the larger sections of the Lebanese people have become excluded from it, moving towards lower economic activity where cash and the exchange of goods replace digital transactions through banks. This shift leads to more isolation from the world economy and this will have negative implications on the living conditions of citizens if an alternative economic model is not found.

Isolation and neglect, then, are the headlines of how the Arab and western worlds will deal with the Lebanese catastrophe. As for the “East”, it is not more than a sick joke that is only matched in its lack of a sense of reality by the tragic irony of the calls for “agricultural jihad” and planting vegetables on balconies as a way to avoid starvation (and not as a solution to the worsening crisis).

But what about the rescue coming from within, by the Lebanese themselves?

After the demonstrations receded in February as a result of the coronavirus pandemic it appeared that the outcome of the Lebanese youth’s uprising on October 17 was only symbolic and that the protesters were unable to force the ruling class to make any compromises at the level of political reform, averting the consequences of the economic collapse on the poor and combating rampant corruption. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation only led to the formation of a government that is at least equally incompetent as his.

Alternative unions were unable to take over the positions that they were trying to reach and drowned in their own internal and personal disputes and the insubstantiality of any “revolutionary groups” on the streets was made clear, let alone the links that some of them had with forces and entities that were against the uprising. As for their only success, the Beirut Bar Association elections, it turned out to be a quarter of a victory that led to many disappointments. It is likely that the Order of Engineers and Architects, who will be holding their elections soon, will bring another disappointment as a result of the political and sectarian divisions among those who supported the uprising.

Therefore, the collapse is not only limited to the breakdown of the state’s infrastructure that consists of repressive apparatuses that have not ceased to humiliate the Lebanese and stand with those responsible for the catastrophe, but also the society’s incapability to produce the necessary alternatives that are capable of ensuring its survival. In other words, society’s failure to save itself by itself through the initiatives and movements that were adopted on October 17, which then reached their natural end. Lebanese activists rediscovered the extent to which sectarianism intersects with regional crises and the impotence of the Lebanese interior, even when rotting and dying of starvation, against the sectarian and class structures that owe their allegiances to foreign forces.

Lebanon has joined the club of failed states at both the economic and institutional levels, and the current authorities are unable to do anything but continue to loot public funds, which is what is happening with both the Bisri Dam and the power plant projects in Selaata. While the Lebanese live in pitch darkness, both literally and metaphorically, the threat of being dragged into a military adventure in the south made things worse, while the world watches our tragedy, reprimanding us at times but mostly yawning out of boredom and indifference at other times.

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