People – Still at the Center of Lebanese Society

I first went to Saudi Arabia 45 years ago. There were no commercial hotels to speak of except for a converted TB hospital in Jeddah. In those days, you had to surrender your passport, which was returned when you departed. It was a bit unsettling for Western businessmen, seldom women, who were used to a bit more control. They hated the ambiguity – about the rules to master to get meetings, then showing up at appointments only to wait for their Saudi or Egyptian counterparts, or trying to find the next meeting despite the lack of street signs and landmarks.

Most of my work in those days was either producing World’s Fairs pavilions (’82, ’86), training expats on how to survive in the Kingdom, or preparing Saudis for training programs in-country or overseas, usually in the US. However, this is not a story about KSA, rather I’m sharing some of my memories of expats who spent time working under Saudi guidance to build their new country. It was a similar story in Kuwait and the UAE, my other assignments, where there was a premium on enabling locals to acquire English, science, and mathematics skills to take their part in the development projects. I also spent time in Iran, which, while another story, had a different set of challenges for expats and locals.

My clients (Saudi, US, and international companies) shared a common concern: that the locals and others Arabs were just not used to working the way that Westerners worked – set hours, well-detailed routines, reporting, records-keeping, and performance appraisals. We continually butted up against cross-cultural issues in building the local workforce. We were in a milieu in which the government felt obligated to provide an expansive social services subsidy program for every Saudi, from free health care and education to scholarships and subsidized mortgages. Of course, in those days, women and men were treated differently, customs which are only now starting to fade.

Being Lebanese-American and having previously worked for a year in (North) Yemen, I was able to navigate many cross-cultural challenges and enjoy a level of comfort. I was accepted by many I encountered either by sharing memories with Yeminis who staffed the souks and provided the bulk of the semi-skilled workforce, or benefiting from the general high regard that Arabs felt towards Lebanon, its institutions, and its cultural diversity.

While preparing for the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, TN, I spent weeks with Aramco traveling throughout the Eastern Province gathering information for the design and content of the pavilion. It was not lost on me that whether I was in the agricultural areas of Al Ahsa oasis or the high tech headquarters of Aramco, usually the second question I heard was “min waynak?” The Arabs I encountered, from Lebanon, Egypt, and Palestine, were pleased when “one of their own” was working with them, and work they did. Contrary to the stereotypes of the day, Arabs worked hard, saved their money, and sent it home. These remittances were the lifeblood of those economies and they were willing to work long hours with very few benefits to support their distant families.

Time and time again, as I spent more time in workforce development, the same negative images of Arabs were repeated: lazy, hard to motivate, careless, unconcerned. I found that this was not the case at all for the Lebanese, who along with their Palestinian counterparts provided the skilled and professional workers for the first two generations working on development in the GCC. In banking, construction, computers, services, and myriad other jobs, the Lebanese excelled at building systems that would carry the GCC countries until their own citizens, educated and trained at home and abroad, stepped up to take responsibility for their national development outcomes, a process still ongoing.

These negative stereotypes thrive in states where personal initiative, merit-based hiring, and achievement are subject to the whims of government employees who are paid no matter the outcomes. One only has to look at the success of expatriate Arabs to appreciate the profound and important contributions they continue to make to their countries’ development – from the outside. In Lebanon, the biggest concern today, as a result of its multiple crises, is the loss of its most valuable resource – its skilled workforce. There are stories daily of education interrupted, difficulties encountered in emigration, restrictions on funds to start or restart business, inability to fund overseas travel, and the sadness of families facing separation and anxiety as loved ones emigrate, with or without papers.

Lebanon has always been a special place because of its people. Their initiative, inventiveness, diligence, and sense of adventure are their compass points to a better life – a future being denied them by the callous disregard for their futures by an oligarchy that treats its human resources as expendable.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 6/21/2021

DAILY NEWS


French and EU Officials Visit Lebanon to Pressure Cabinet Formation
On Friday French Envoy Patrick Durrell visited Beirut to push Lebanon’s political leaders to form a cabinet. The visit comes ahead of sanctions that the EU and France are preparing against those that have obstructed government formation. [Naharnet] This weekend EU High Representative Josep Borrell also travelled to Lebanon to urge the formation of a government and implement key reforms. Yesterday he identified political leaders’ fight to secure power as the source of Lebanon’s government crisis. [Reuters]

France Hosts World Powers Meeting to Raise Funds for LAF
Last week France hosted a meeting with world powers with the aim to raise tens of millions of dollars for the Lebanese Armed Forces. LAF Commander General Joseph Aoun appeared at the virtual event and warned that soldiers salaries are being significantly cut. [The 961] Participants in the meeting were not asked to provide LAF salaries directly but to provide food, medical supplies, and spare parts for military equipment. Most of the participants pledged they are ready to offer support. [France 24]

Lebanon’s Energy Minister Says Gasoline Subsidy to Come to an End Soon
Lebanese Energy Minister Raymond Ghana’s warned that Lebanon’s gasoline subsidy would soon come to an end, noting that the system is unsustainable. The subsidy program costs Lebanon about $6 billion a year, and around half of that is spent on fuel. [Al Jazeera] The statement comes as Lebanese spend hours in car lines outside gas stations throughout the country. [Reuters]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Foreign Policy
The Lebanese Army Needs Cash
Bilal Saab

Saab writes: “The policy debate in Washington, intensified during the Trump administration, over whether the United States should increase or even continue its support of the Lebanese army misses a fundamental point: For the United States, the force – whose commander, Gen. Joseph Aoun, just this week was desperately asking for assistance at a French-led donor conference – is the only game in town that can preserve the United States’ position and influence in the country.”

ٍRead more here

Carnegie Middle East Center
Building on Lebanon’s Ruins
Michael Young

Young writes: “A new Lebanon is emerging on the debris of the old, and Hezbollah wants to fashions the country in its own image. Three words are notably absent today: ‘International Monetary Fund.’ Lebanon will not soon resort to the IMF’s conditions and reform its public finances to secure a bailout. Hezbollah does not want Lebanon to submit to an institution in which Western states have a major say. In this the party will have the backing of contemptible Lebanese political class that refuses to make any concessions that diminish its power.”

ٍRead more here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

This Week In Lebanon: 6/19/2021

JUNE 19, 2021
International Donors Pledge Aid to LAF
EU Representative in Lebanon Warns of Sanctions
Human Rights Watch Calls for Investigative Mission
Shops, Government Offices, and Banks Go on Strike

International Donors Pledge Emergency Aid to Lebanese Armed Forces
At a virtual meeting hosted by France and Italy on Thursday, international donors pledged tens of millions of dollars in emergency aid for the Lebanese Armed Forces. The aid will be put toward human and basic maintenance needs, through France said that this is not a substitute for much-needed reforms in Lebanon. [VOA]

ANALYSIS

“Aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces couldn’t come at a more timely moment, as their troops are unable to feed their families. Such emergency aid will stabilize one of Lebanon’s few institutions that remains above the country’s sectarian divides. LAF chief General Joseph Aoun, who visited Paris recently said the military was ‘forced to turn to allies to survive.’ The humanitarian needs of the army and the extreme poor in Lebanon should be the United States’ top priority.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


EU Representative in Lebanon Warns of Sanctions
European Union High Representative Josep Borrell is in Lebanon this week to meet with political leaders and urge the formation of a government. He told Lebanese leaders today that those who obstruct steps to form a government and implement reform will face sanctions. [Reuters]

ANALYSIS

“Observing the maxim, ‘follow the money,’ considering sanctions against individuals who are corrupt, human rights abusers, or who support terrorist activities is an important step forward for the EU, France, UK, and other European countries. Following the lead of the United States, these new European sanctions will add to the pressure to remove obstacles to the formation of a reform government capable of addressing the needs of the Lebanese people.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


Human Rights Watch Calls for Investigative Mission into Beirut Explosion
This week the Human Rights Watch submitted a joint letter to the UN Human Rights Council that was signed by 53 Lebanese, regional, and international groups and 62 survivors and families of victims of the August 4 Beirut explosion. The letter called for an international investigative mission into the port blast and said the domestic investigation has been riddled with flaws including political interference and violations of due process. [AP]

ANALYSIS

“August 4 should be a solemn remembrance of the horrific explosions at the Port of Beirut as a result of government mismanagement and refusal to take responsibility for even its most basic safety functions. Instead, the people of Lebanon and the international community are waiting and waiting for a transparent, cohesive, and comprehensive accounting of what happened last year and who is responsible. The oligarchy is circling the wagons and ignoring the reality that the people are watching and waiting for answers.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Shops, Government Offices, and Banks Go on Strike
This week Lebanon’s General Labor Union called for a strike in protest of the country’s dire conditions and delayed cabinet formation. The union called on “economic bodies, merchant organizations, and the Association of Banks in Lebanon” to allow employees to participate in the strike. [Naharnet] Shops, government offices, and banks followed the request and closed their doors today to accommodate the protest. Several roadblocks were set up around Beirut and other cities. Ironically, the political parties that are blamed for delayed government formation showed their support for the protest, drawing criticism from activists. [Washington Post]

ANALYSIS

“Whatever the political repercussions of the general strike, the most important fact is that it once again will be multi-confessional, country-wide, and intergenerational. The Diab (non) government can take steps even with its limited mandate to take reform measures to bring some relief to the people. Instead, subsidies will soon end without a viable, sustainable system in its place. Will the peoples’ voices continue to be ignored? It seems that the dark tunnel that is Lebanon’s future is only getting deeper and more opaque.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Lawyers on Strike Announce the ‘Great Lawyers’ Uprising’
Last week, Lebanese lawyers announced they will continue a strike called the “Great Lawyers’ Uprising” that demands the adoption of a law on judicial independence within 20 days. The group has already continued their strike for over ten days. The announcement was shared by the head of the Beirut Bar Association outside the Justice Palace in Beirut in commemoration of four martyred judges. [The 961]

ANALYSIS

“For generations, the need for an independent judiciary has been one of the priority reforms in Lebanon. In fact, Parliament has already had a bill which has been sitting for years that would finally begin that process. Under Lebanon’s constitution, “judges are independent in the exercise of their duties and their decisions and judgements shall be rendered in the name of the Lebanese people.’ However, this is not the reality as political interference, sectarian pressures, and wasta all interfere with the functioning of the judiciary. A transparent and independent judiciary are essential to Lebanon’s renaissance.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 6/18/2021

DAILY NEWS


France Hosts World Powers Meeting to Raise Funds for LAF
Yesterday France hosted a meeting with world powers with the aim to raise tens of millions of dollars for the Lebanese Armed Forces. LAF Commander General Joseph Aoun appeared at the virtual event and warned that soldiers salaries are being significantly cut. [The 961] Participants in the meeting were not asked to provide LAF salaries directly but to provide food, medical supplies, and spare parts for military equipment. The meeting hasn’t produced funding yet, but most of the participants have shown they are ready to offer support soon. [France 24]

French and EU Officials Visit Lebanon to Pressure Cabinet Formation
Today French Envoy Patrick Durrell is in Beirut to push Lebanon’s political leaders to form a cabinet. The visit comes ahead of sanctions that the EU and France are preparing against those that have obstructed government formation. [Naharnet] This weekend EU High Representative Josep Borrell will also visit Lebanon to urge the formation of a government and implement key reforms. He will meet with political and military leaders as well as civil society. [Naharnet]

Lebanon’s Energy Minister Says Gasoline Subsidy to Come to an End Soon
Yesterday Lebanese Energy Minister Raymond Ghana’s warned that Lebanon’s gasoline subsidy would soon come to an end, noting that the system is unsustainable. The subsidy program costs Lebanon about $6 billion a year, and around half of that is spent on fuel. [Al Jazeera] The statement comes as Lebanese spend hours in car lines outside gas stations throughout the country. [Reuters]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies
Lebanon’s Emerging Opposition: From COVID-19 to the 2022 Elections

LCPS writes: “With the country’s ruling parties entrenched in state institutions, having amassed significant financial and social capital through clientelistic networks, Lebanon’s budding opposition will no doubt face major obstacles. And whether prioritizing the 2022 elections is a viable and effective tool for structural change is a debate that appears to be nowhere near resolved. However, one thing independent political parities and groups all agree on is that they need to develop their programs, expand their membership base, and build formidable coalitions based on clear policy positions.”

ٍRead more here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 6/17/2021

DAILY NEWS


Shops, Government Offices, and Banks Go on Strike
Today Lebanon’s General Labor Union called for a strike in protest of the country’s dire conditions and delayed cabinet formation. The union called on “‘economic bodies, merchant organizations, and the Association of Banks in Lebanon” to allow employees to participate in the strike. [Naharnet] Shops, government offices, and banks followed the request and closed their doors today to accommodate the protest. Several roadblocks were set up around Beirut and other cities. Ironically, the political parties that are blamed for delayed government formation showed their support for the protest, drawing criticism from activists. [Washington Post]

Central Bank Statement on Subsidies and Fuel Shortages
In a statement yesterday Lebanon’s central bank called on the caretaker government to approve a plan to ration subsidies targeted toward people in need. It added that it would not use mandatory reserves to fund subsidies, also noting that the system for importing subsidized medical goods could not be sustained. In regards to fuel shortages, the Banque Du Liban said that it has paid banks to open up credits for fuel imports. [Reuters]

General Joseph Aoun to Visit the United States and United Kingdom
Amid concerns of the Lebanese Armed Forces worsening situation while Lebanon faces financial collapse, General Joseph Aoun is expected to travel to the United States and the United Kingdom to garner humanitarian and logistical support for the army. [Naharnet] Today France is holding a virtual meeting to raise tens of millions of dollars in emergency aid for the army. [Reuters]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies
Lebanon’s Emerging Opposition: From COVID-19 to the 2022 Elections

LCPS writes: “With the country’s ruling parties entrenched in state institutions, having amassed significant financial and social capital through clientelistic networks, Lebanon’s budding opposition will no doubt face major obstacles. And whether prioritizing the 2022 elections is a viable and effective tool for structural change is a debate that appears to be nowhere near resolved. However, one thing independent political parities and groups all agree on is that they need to develop their programs, expand their membership base, and build formidable coalitions based on clear policy positions.”

ٍRead more here

Carnegie Middle East Center
A Military Lifeline
Michael Young interviews Aram Nerguzian

Nerguzian says: “What matters is that the LAF is losing quality officers and noncommissioned officers, the gray matter and capabilities the institution has spent more than a decade and a half developing. If this continues and there are no means of retaining critical talent and capabilities, it signals the entropy and possible decline of what has become one of the Arab world’s most capable militaries. Such a decline could be a harbinger of the kinds of instability not seen since the last time Lebanon’s political elites gutted or set adrift the LAF, namely in the five years leading up to the 1975-1990 civil war.”

ٍRead more here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 6/16/2021

DAILY NEWS


Lebanese Armed Forces Facing Unprecedented Pressure
Today the World Bank warned that Lebanon’s army is facing “unprecedented pressure” as Lebanon struggles to deal with financial collapse. [Naharnet] The collapse is affecting the Lebanese Armed Forces’ operational capabilities and weakening soldiers’ salaries and their morale. Experts say these developments could bring about instability not seen since the civil war. [AP] France is working to raise emergency aid for the LAF in the tens of millions of dollars at a meeting with other partner countries tomorrow. [Reuters]

EU Delegation to Arrive in Beirut on Saturday
European Union officials are expected to arrive in Beirut this Saturday for an international conference focused on Lebanon. High Representative of the EU Josep Borrell will lead the delegation and will be accompanied by technical and administrative officials. [Naharnet]

AUB Students to Lead a Massive Fundraiser
Students of the American University of Beirut will lead a large fundraiser event with over 20,000 attendees expected. This year the students’ goal is to donate all profits from the event to students that need financial help in order to continue their education. [The 961]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Carnegie Middle East Center
A Military Lifeline
Michael Young interviews Aram Nerguzian

Nerguzian says: “What matters is that the LAF is losing quality officers and noncommissioned officers, the gray matter and capabilities the institution has spent more than a decade and a half developing. If this continues and there are no means of retaining critical talent and capabilities, it signals the entropy and possible decline of what has become one of the Arab world’s most capable militaries. Such a decline could be a harbinger of the kinds of instability not seen since the last time Lebanon’s political elites gutted or set adrift the LAF, namely in the five years leading up to the 1975-1990 civil war.”

ٍRead more here

Middle East Institute
It’s Now or Never: Lebanon Policy Conference Key Takeaways

The Middle East Institute recently hosted its inaugural Lebanon policy conference in collaboration with the American Task Force on Lebanon and LIFE. This series brought together leading diplomats, policymakers, economists, development practitioners, and think tank professionals from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Lebanon to discuss the urgency and viable paths forward for the country’s political, financial, and humanitarian crises. Click the link below to read key takeaways from the conference.

ٍRead more here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 6/15/2021

DAILY NEWS


Fuel Shortages Cause Mass Queues at Lebanon’s Gas Stations
Fuel shortages in Lebanon are causing mass queues at gas stations, many waiting hours before they can fill their car with a rationed amount of gas. Hundreds of cars have been seen lined up for miles the past few days. [Middle East Eye] Meanwhile many gas stations have closed and the association of gas station owners is blaming the central bank for not providing dollars to cover Lebanon’s fuel import needs. Tensions have risen after a fistfight broke out at a gas station last week and reports of a man firing his gun in the air after being turned away at a station in Tripoli. [Washington Post]

Human Rights Watch Calls for Investigative Mission
In a joint letter signed by 53 Lebanese, regional, and international groups and individuals, the Human Rights Watch called on the UN Human Rights Council to establish an investigative mission into the August 4 Port of Beirut explosion. The letter noted the flaws of the domestic investigation that has been conducted thus far including political interference and violations of due process. Another 62 survivors and families of the victims also signed the letter. [Associated Press]

UN Deputy Special Coordinator Najat Rochdi on the State of Lebanon
UN Deputy Special Coordinator and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi recently spoke to reporters at the UN in Geneva on the state of Lebanon. She said that public services have broken down and the healthcare system is stretched beyond its limits while political reforms remain illusive. Rochdi spoke to Lebanon’s path to recovery through the 3RF which is the ‘Reform, Recovery, and Reconstruction Framework.’ [UN News]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Carnegie Middle East Center
Building on Lebanon’s Ruins
Michael Young

Young writes: “A new Lebanon is emerging on the debris of the old, and Hezbollah wants to fashion the country in its own image. Three words are notably absent today: ‘International Monetary Fund.’ Lebanon will not soon resort to the IMF’s conditions and reform its public finances to secure a bailout. Hezbollah does not want Lebanon to submit to an institution in which Western states have a major say. In this the party will have the backing of a contemptible Lebanese political class that refuses to make any concession that diminish its power.”

ٍRead more here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 6/14/2021

DAILY NEWS


Lebanon’s Currency Has Reached a New Record Low
Yesterday, Lebanon’s currency reached a new low at LL15,150 to the dollar. [Middle East Eye] Today, it dipped even further at LL15,400 to LL15,000 on the black market. The Lebanese pound has lost about 90 percent of its value since late 2019 at the start of Lebanon’s economic meltdown. [Naharnet]

PM-Designate May Consider Stepping Down As Latest Talks Fail
Sources say Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is seriously considering stepping down from his role almost eight months after his designation. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s latest attempts to break the political gridlock by appointing a 24-member cabinet have failed thus far. Lebanon is now almost 10 months without a government. [The Daily Star]

President Aoun Meets with US Mediator on Maritime Border Talks
Today President Michel Aoun met with US mediator John Desrocher to discuss maritime border talks with Israel and the latest updates since the talks were halted. [Naharnet] Border talks had resumed in May, but were quickly stopped when Aoun claimed that the US was imposing pre-conditions and subsequently ordered Lebanon’s delegation to halt participation. [Al Arabiya]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


United States Institute of Peace
Lebanon on the Brink of Historic Breakdown
Osama Gharizi and Mona Yacoubian

“Already accomplices to this economic collapse due to years of corruption and mismanagement, Lebanon’s leaders have been reviled for their limited response. With Lebanese exasperated with their increasingly desperate situation, there could be widespread social unrest and a major breakdown, which would have important humanitarian and regional security implications.”

USIP’s Osama Gharizi and Mona Yacoubian look at what this means for the Lebanese people, the potential security and regional implications, and how the international community can help.

ٍRead more here

The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies
Bridging the Education Gap: How to Avoid a Lost Generation of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Daniel Garrote Sanchez

Sanchez writes: “Education is vital in providing individuals with skills and experiences that will afford them access to better and more secure work. The Lebanese government and international bodies have made efforts tot bring more Syrian refugee children into the educational system. Despite these efforts, about 54% of school-aged children (between the ages of 3 and 18) are still out of school. This policy brief uses econometric techniques to elicit the main drivers of education enrollment, distinguishing between different supply, financial, and demand factors. In order to determine the main factors – alongside econometric techniques – we use the Living Condition Survey of Refugees and Host Communities in Lebanon (LCSRHCL) in three mid-sized cities in Lebanon: Saida, Zahle, and Halba. We find strong evidence that education enrollment rates of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are appallingly low due to the lack of affordability and monetary means of the impoverished refugee population, and not primarily due to supply constraints. This brief ends with policy recommendations on how to bridge the gap and bring more Syrian refugee children into the local education system.”

ٍRead more here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 6/11/2021

DAILY NEWS


IMF Questions BDL’s Dollar Withdrawal Plan
The International Monetary Fund is questioning Banque Du Liban’s decision to allow Lebanese depositors to withdraw funds in US dollars and says the plan could risk higher inflation. IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said the it was unclear how the withdrawals would be financed. He says the lack of foreign currency in Lebanon paired with the country’s need to finance imports will make it difficult to cover the withdrawals. [Bloomberg]

Macron Announces Efforts to Create a Financing Mechanism for Lebanon
Yesterday French President Emmanuel Macron said that France and other international partners are working to create a financial mechanism for Lebanon. The mechanism is meant to ensure that public services get back on track amid Lebanon’s political and economic crises. [Reuters]

Lebanon’s Medical Community Faces Severe Shortages
Pharmacies throughout Lebanon closed their businesses today while pharmacists are on strike to protest severe shortages in medicines, infant milk, and other supplies. [The Daily Star] Yesterday hospitals warned that a shortage in supplies may force suspension of kidney dialysis. Lebanon’s crises are leading to increasingly dire conditions in hospitals. [Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Center For Strategic & International Studies
Sustainable States: Environment, Governance, and the Future of the Middle East

A recent CSIS report included a section on Lebanon that offers the following analysis: “Lebanon’s current troubles should not surprise those who have been paying attention to basic service provision. However, in crisis lies opportunity. The country has the chance to rebuild in a way that it never did after the civil war. By leading with environmental sustainability, transparency, and cooperation, Lebanon can finally have inclusive reconstruction and renewed pride in their public goods. Companies, NGOs, and development agencies are learning that working within the existing landscape to build trust and cooperation with stakeholders is more challenging but ultimately more rewarding than simply building infrastructure unsuitable to the context. Lebanon has the talented entrepreneurs, technical experts, and motivated civil society to do this work, but they need to be empowered to work constructively with their government and communities or they will eventually look elsewhere like so many millions of their compatriots during the war.”

ٍRead more here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 6/10/2021

DAILY NEWS


Doctors Stage a Sit-In in Protest of Dire Hospital Conditions
A group of Lebanese doctors called the White Shirts organized a sit-in protest outside hospitals today to bring attention to their dire conditions and shortage of medical supplies. Doctors say they have had to reduce the number patients admitted to hospitals because of the shortages. Protesters call on the World Health Organization to help the Lebanese medical community survive the country’s multiple crises. [Naharnet]

Political Activity Increases This Week Surrounding Cabinet Formation Discussions
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for a decision on Lebanon’s government formation this week. He is pushing his proposal for a 24-member cabinet that would contain no blocking one-third veto power for any party. Political sources say political activity and conversations have intensified this week to find a resolution. An obstacle remains over a disagreement between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri regarding who should name two Christian ministers. [The Daily Star]

Lawyers on Strike Announce the ‘Great Lawyers’ Uprising’
This week, Lebanese lawyers announced they will continue a strike called the “Great Lawyers’ Uprising” that demands the adoption of a law on judicial independence within 20 days. The group has already continued their strike for over ten days. The announcement was shared by the head of the Beirut Bar Association outside the Justice Palace in Beirut in commemoration of four martyred judges. [The 961]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Carnegie Middle East Center
We Want to Break Free
Issam Kayssi

Kayssi writes: “In the face of colossal challenges for more than a year now, some Lebanese have decided to find ways to opt out of their disastrous financial order. Some have chosen to invest in the decentralized digital currency Bitcoin, which has been in circulation globally since 2009 and is protected from unexpected inflation. The governor of Lebanon’s central bank, Riad Salameh, does not regard Bitcoin as currency, but as a highly volatile commodity. That is why its use as a currency was banned in 2017 in the Lebanese market. This did not stop Salameh from announcing in 2020 the central bank’s plans (currently on hold) to introduce its own digital currency in order to transition to a ‘cashless system.’ One would imagine that this ‘digital pound’ would be controlled by Salameh, its supply, like the current pound, inflated at his will and that of his political backers. That is precisely why many Lebanese have chosen Bitcoin.”

ٍRead more here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.