UN signals alarm at the rapidly declining state of Lebanese economy and society

Local media has been reporting the fundamental disappearance of the Lebanese middle-class as an income category and key economic part of consumer consumption.
by TK Maloy

11 July 2020 | 10:47

Source: by Annahar

  • by TK Maloy
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 11 July 2020 | 10:47

A photo of October, 2019 street protest in Beirut. ( Source/Social Media).

BEIRUT: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned Friday “of the crippling impact of the socio-economic crisis on Lebanon's population,” urging the government, political parties and the financial sector “to work together to ensure the protection of the poorest and most vulnerable.”

Financially at-risk Lebanese, in addition to other vulnerable groups such as refugees and migrant workers, are increasingly unable to meet their basic needs, she said.

"This situation is fast spiraling out of control, with many already destitute and facing starvation as a direct result of this crisis," Bachelet said. 

"The growing economic shocks, coupled with the outbreak of COVID-19, have touched all sections of society. Many have lost jobs, seen their life-savings evaporate before their eyes and lost their homes. Hundreds of families simply cannot afford to put food on the table," she added.

"Their situation will only get worse as food and medical imports dry up as the depreciated Lebanese pound has greatly increased the cost of imported goods."

In parallel, the World Bank recently reported that Lebanon has in most food categories, higher price inflation in comparison to other countries in the MENA region. A trip to the local vegetable souk, mini-mart or supermarket more often than not leads to sticker shock in reaction to the markedly upward cost of average food products.

One mini-mart owner told Annahar in a recent article that he often has to reprice products daily, such is the rapid change in cost. “While Lebanese are used to hardships, of course, they are shocked nevertheless,” adding, “Where this is going to end, is anyone’s guess. The situation is not good at all.”

The country’s precipitous economic downturn, alongside the ongoing pandemic and containment measures, has resulted in one in three Lebanese reportedly losing their jobs, according to UN figures.

"Unemployment propels poverty and indebtedness," said Bachelet. "In a country with no unemployment benefits and fragile social security nets, an unemployment crisis has grave implications not only for the economy but for the very social fabric of the country."

Well reported on by now is that the profound dissatisfaction of Lebanese citizens with chronic government mismanagement, corruption and political stalemates boiled over into massive street protests last October. These protest have resumed with vigor this spring and early summer.

The UN warns "that Lebanon is now teetering on the brink of economic collapse": since October the Lira has lost more than 80 percent of its value, thousands of businesses have closed and chronic power cuts have become the norm.

Additionally, local media has been reporting the disappearance of the Lebanese middle-class as an income category and key economic part of consumer consumption. Thus driving the economy even more downhill.

The High Commissioner called on the country's political parties and leaders to enact urgently needed reforms, and to prioritize the provision of essential needs such as food, electricity, health and education.

She further called upon the international community to increase its assistance to the government to support such efforts.

Apart from the call by the UN for international assistance, many analysts have noted that it is questionable if or how much aid will be extended to the state of Lebanon, given the lack of any reforms, budget cuts, or other measures of fiscal common sense on the part of the country's political leadership.

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