BEIRUT: The Centre for Lebanese Studies and Life co-hosted a discussion titled Lebanon Uprising: the road to reform, delving into the small Mediterranean country's economic woes while offering solutions moving forward.
LIFE is a worldwide membership organization of Lebanese professionals based abroad and was founded in 2009 with the aim of providing a platform to channel the influence of Lebanese executives active in fields related to finance worldwide through its three pillars: CONNECT, NURTURE, PROMOTE.
Maha Shuayb, Director of the Center for Lebanese Studies, stressed that sectarianism alone can’t be blamed for the civil war, and the current state of Lebanon, citing inequality, at the education level, as playing a significant role.
“There was a misdiagnosis of the root cause of the civil war. It’s socioeconomic. The misdiagnosis that it was sectarian was cited as the common term: ‘it’s a deeply divided society.’ Is it because of sectarianism, or is there another reason? 26% of Lebanese attend public primary schools or state schools, many of them don't make it to university. 30% of the total student population is enrolled in public schools.” Shuayb said.
Paul Raphael, Executive Vice-Chairman of UBS bank and founder of Life, compared the current economic situation of Lebanon to being akin to a family with “high credit card debt and high-interest rates.”
“If you liken Lebanon to a family that has racked up a lot of debt, what happens in these sorts of households is what needs to happen in Lebanon. There's no one solution, and there are no easy solutions.” Raphael said in the discussion.
Raphael stressed that adopting a sustainable fiscal consolidation plan is necessary for moving forward.
“The first thing you do is stop spending. The state spends more than it receives…We feel strongly that whatever you do needs to be sustainable, a one-time tax isn't helpful. We need a fiscal consolidation plan that’s sustainable. In any way you look at it there will be a social cost; ideally, this would tax the public the least.” Raphael said in the discussion.
Life has also released an in-depth economic paper that includes a number of policies and suggestions aimed at stopping Lebanon from drifting towards an economic meltdown, which can be viewed here.
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