Lebanon’s choking economy might meet its death

Beirut’s explosion is the final nail in the coffin of the Lebanese economy.

There was a time when sin was not considered a sin and crime was not considered a crime in Lebanon’s capital Beirut. People from across the globe would come to witness the diversity of the city and leave a heavy chunk of the economy in the Lebanese hands. But this was a time. The continuous strife of decades since 1975 has exhausted Lebanon and its citizens. The hanging economy of the country had already started suffocating when she was hit by the pandemic and then came this blast on this Tuesday evening in Beirut which could not come in any worse time than this for Lebanon and its people. The state of Lebanon is under Iran’s influence via Hezbollah causing hurdles in receiving support from the other Arab countries for a quite long time. Also, due to the heavy presence of Hezbollah in the political scene of the state, Israel has made every possible effort to keep her neighbor a beggar for many years ahead. The remaining task was done by the overwhelming (1.5 million) refugees’, entering in this poor state from Syria and the civil wars Lebanon has faced since 1975.

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This is not the first time that man has become a victim of Ammonium Nitrate which is used in fertilizers and bombs. Notably, it was 1947 when an explosion followed by a series of blasts had taken place due to the Ammonium Nitrate explosion in Texas, killing 581 Americans. But the scale of the present explosion in Beirut is more witnessed due to being a camera in every hand.

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“I will not relax until we find the responsible party for what happened, hold it accountable and apply the most serious punishments against it because it isn’t acceptable that a shipment of ammonium nitrate — estimated to be 2,750 tons — was in a depot for the past six years without precautionary measures being taken”, said an official of the Lebanese Higher Defense Council quoting Prime Minister Diab.

This blast has caused 135 deaths and 5,000 injuries so far. Whereas the number of displaced people is around 300,000, according to the officials of Lebanon. The French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut and promised to not hand over the financial aid to the corrupt hands. People who gathered around him seem to complain rather than praise his visit. It can be sensed that people living in Lebanon, particularly in the capital, want to get rid of the corrupt elite. Few Arab countries and Israel, including the international community, have also offered humanitarian support to Lebanon after the blast.

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Talking about Lebanon’s economy, it has been in rubbles for years. For instance, World Bank had predicted just before the pandemic hit the country that 45 percent of the Lebanese would become below the poverty line in 2020. IMF had also forecasted that Lebanon’s economy would see a contraction of 12 percent this year. The collapse of the currency and the surge in inflation had also triggered an uneasy environment around Lebanon among the Lebanese regarding their ruling elite. The environment was not only uneasy but also unstable. The country was also suffering from tackling many other issues that were caused due to the ongoing political turmoil in the state. People were hardly making both ends meet as the political and economic deadlock were leading the state toward a social deadlock. The salt in the injury is that the blast on August 4 had occurred on the port city of Beirut which erased the port, which was Lebanon’s main maritime hub, and around 60 percent imports of the state pass-through this hub. In a nutshell, this blast was the last nail in the coffin of Lebanon’s economy.

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“It is essential to overcome the impasse in the discussions on critical reforms and put in place a meaningful program to turn around the economy and build accountability and trust in the future of the country,” IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva stated just before the country was hit by the pandemic of COVID-19.

In addition, the blast of Tuesday has further paralyzed every left sector of the country. For instance, the blast has damaged around 90 percent of the hotels in Beirut, causing massive damage to the tourism sector of the country where around 2 million people visited Lebanon in 2018 alone. It is for sure that people running those hotels, people working for those hotels, people selling their stuff to those hotels and the government receiving taxes from those hotels have lost the very businesses, employments, and benefits.

It is also a common consequence that Lebanon has further drowned herself in the ongoing economic crisis due to her own negligence causing a fire in the warehouse which was followed by an explosion of 2,750 tons of Ammonium Nitrate. Despite heavy promises from the international community, Lebanon is to face the long-term consequences, as she is not a normal country like many in the region of the Middle East. The enmity with Israel, the influence of Iran via Hezbollah, and many domestic issues are still there with the same magnitude as those were before the explosion of this Tuesday evening. What has changed is that the situation has got worse. People of Lebanon were already testing the newly formed government in their state and now they are to test their nerves too.

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To conclude, Lebanon, its citizens, and its government are supposed to bear the consequences of this negligence and the international community is to be tested on humanitarian grounds here in Beirut. Besides, the Lebanese economy’s death has become more certain with this blast and now it is worth waiting to witness what happens next in the country regarding its economic uplift or further downfall.

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Note: Pictures’ courtesy does not belong to the writer.

Middle East Writer

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