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Here’s What’s Happening in Lebanon

It’s been a little over a year now since the explosion of the Port of Beirut, and matters are only getting worse. 

Early on Sunday, August 15, a fuel tank exploded, killing at least 28 people, and injuring 79 others in northern Lebanon. 

“The corpses are so charred that we can’t identify them,” said Yassine Metlej, an employee at an Akkar hospital to AFP. “Some have lost their faces, others their arms,” he added.

Lebanon has been facing an infrastructural collapse: blackouts permeating through the country, long queues for fuel clogging the highways, WiFi and safe water becoming unaffordable, and unprecedented political fissures pervading the nation — a situation many say are worse than that during the 1975-90 civil war.

“During the civil war, even with how horrible it was, there weren’t any power cuts,” said the 50-year-old Hassan Khalife who owns a small barbecue joint near Beirut’s parliament.

“The state, which is supposed to take care of its people, is doing the opposite. It’s trying to humiliate us as much as it can,” he added.

Lebanon now lives in the darkness of the blackouts that have swept the whole nation. Foremost is, the power cuts and lack of access to the diesel needed to power backup generators have forced many businesses to close.

This comes during a time when Lebanon is already suffering a financial meltdown — one of the many ripple effects of the scarcity in fuel subsidies. 

On August 11, Lebanon’s Central Bank announced lifting subsidies for fuel imports that had taken effect since the financial crisis in 2019, adding that it would offer credit lines to fuel importers based on the market price of the Lebanese pound as of the following day.

Lebanon’s currency has lost its value by more than 90 percent since 2019 — which has led more than half the population to poverty. If anything, the hard currency crunch is looming across Lebanon as prices have drastically been skyrocketing.

Since the beginning of the crisis, the Bank has been consuming its dollar reserves to finance imports at exchange rates “below the rates on the parallel market.” 

Causing a massive panic across the country, the Bank defended its position saying it had told the government a year earlier that it would need legislation, so that they can dip into the mandatory reserve that is preserved under the rule of law.

According to the World Bank report, it’s likely that Lebanon’s financial crisis will rank in the top 10, and most probably in the top three, most severe crises globally since 1900.

Last month, Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stepped down after he was tasked with forming the crisis-ridden country’s next government, saying that President Michel Aoun had rejected his proposal for the third time. 

“During the conversation we proposed that the president take more time to think about the proposal, and [Aoun] said ‘it looks like we’re not going to agree’,” Hariri told the reporters. “For that reason, I have stepped down from forming the government,” he added.

This is not the first time Lebanon had a prime minister-designate resign from his post. In essence, the nation has not had a government since Prime Minister Hassan Diab stepped down in the aftermath of the blast of the Port of Beirut in 2020.

The World Bank reports that recovering from this financial tailspin might take about 12-19 years.