Almost all financial and economic indicators point to Lebanon’s dramatic freefall into the abyss. With public debt rising to $118 billion, the annual budget deficit has shot above 60 percent even as the total budgetary amount stands at a paltry $17 billion.
The economic and financial crisis comes amid the glaring inability of political authorities – be it the one allied to Hezbollah or the other disaffiliated from it – from taking any measures to stabilize the situation.
Statements emanating from the government show their abject disregard of the dire economic situation and an Ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach that fails to acknowledge the imminent threat.
Economy in freefall? Blame Syrian refugees
Some have made Syrian refugees the scapegoat in order to absolve Lebanese authorities from taking any responsibility for the current dismal situation. The refugee issue is also used to cover up several instances of corruption and ‘organized loot’ which has skyrocketed the budgetary deficit and the debt burden.
For example, the biggest illegal appropriation of public property over the last 10 years has been brought about by political forces that are now part of the government. The role of illegitimate arms was behind these illicit activities, which has impaired the rule of law.
Hezbollah and its allies put on a military, political and media show on a daily basis and always give the impression that they control the state, its foreign affairs as well as political and security decisionsAli al-Amin
Weaknesses cannot produce confidence. Hezbollah and its allies put on a military, political and media show on a daily basis and always give the impression that they control the state, its foreign affairs as well as political and security decisions. However, this does not create a sense of confidence in them. Something makes these powers – particularly Hezbollah –uneasy about the territories and jurisdiction they claim to possess.
Lebanese people have come to realize that there have been recent attempts at undermining the pluralistic character of their society, particularly with the promotion of the concept that Hezbollah is sacrosanct and above criticism, while all others are essentially impure and tainted.
Again, those who endorse the statements of Hezbollah and adore emblems of the Iranian outreach, which extends from Tehran to Beirut, are largely accepted and embraced.
This style of management is reflective of a military and security oriented mindset that only knows how to govern through force and repression. This approach may partially work and only under specific circumstances but it cannot be sustained for long in a country like Lebanon.
Truly Arab and pluralistic
Since the time of Lebanon’s establishment, no authority has been able to upset the political and cultural diversity of the country – irrespective of its political or military might – nor has it been able to interfere with its sense of freedom that has resisted all internal and external powers.
This characteristic is deep-entrenched and is directly linked to the country’s economic and social character. Violating the conditions of democracy and freedom will have direct and definitive impact on its economy.
Lebanon rejects any attempt at the imposition of a totalitarian system. Thanks to its essential constituents, it cannot be separated from its Arab ethos and moorings. Its distinctly Arab sense of belonging is not superficial but it is germane to its existence and continuity and is of vital significance.
Whenever any power or authority in the past has tried to drag Lebanon into something different from its true nature, the people have vociferously spoken out and revolted against any attempts at subjugation.
Lebanon is a country that is much bigger than any ideological construct developed to mobilize the masses. Its culture runs deeper than any smug idea that might presume it is in control. Its ethos is resistant to occupation, both from within and without.
Freedom in Lebanon is not a passing fad but is a deep-rooted value that is fully capable of unseating tyranny, whether in the form of men, political alliance or ideologies.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Ali Al-Amin is a journalist based in Lebanon and is the Editor of news site Janoubia.com.