Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Every day we hear horrific stories of Lebanese families falling into the abyss of no access to funds in banks, no work, little or no state assistance, and no way out of the cycle. Families are starving, medicines are scarce so health is deteriorating, and people have lost hope. It tears at our shared human spirit.

Who are the culprits and why is this happening? There is plenty of blame to spread around but the more critical question is “Can’t something be done about this NOW?” US assistance programs are ramping up their contributions. For example, the State Department announced a grant of $20 million in emergency tuition support for 1,800 Lebanese students at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University to cover half their tuition.

ATFL is committed to using our res...

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Caesar Act debuted on June 17, preceded by warnings of dire consequences for the Syrian and Lebanese people and institutions that do business with the country. Many analysts built their doomsday scenarios largely on comparisons to the suffering of the Iraqi people during Saddam Hussein’s regime. They raise a legitimate concern with the accuracy of the notion that you can target sanctions well enough to prevent “collateral damage.”

In fact, there are several considerations in determining the likely impact of the Caesar Act sanctions: the current state of the Syrian economy and how it got there; the likely targets and how these affect the Syrian people, Lebanon, and the Lebanese doing business with Syria; how the sanctions will be implemented and sustained; and possible responses from ext...

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

If you think Lebanon is in bad shape…look next door at Syria. World Vision reports that “About 5.6 million Syrians are refugees, and another 6.2 million people are displaced within Syria. Nearly 12 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance. At least half of the people affected by the Syrian refugee crisis are children.”

Lebanon has to take its share of the credit for the economic decline in Syria: its plunging currency and shortages of basic necessities have driven the Syrian pound crashing to over 3,000 to a US dollar last week and it is estimated that 83% of the population lives beneath the poverty line. An average monthly salary in Syria can today can only buy a watermelon and two kilos of lemons, or two watermelons, or four kilos of lemons…you get it…the people are on the edg...

Monday, June 15, 2020

There are many who have asked where to begin to find a way to help the people of Lebanon during these debilitating times. This blog is the first of several to address who is helping those in need in Lebanon and highlights ATFL’s partnership with Rotary International/Lebanon in its campaign to combat hunger.

The continued decline of the Lebanese economy is frightening. Whether talking about the currency collapse or the consequent skyrocketing costs in basic food and services, the Lebanese are in an awful situation. In a country where only 45% of the workforce is part of the formal economy, and therefore qualify for social security and some other services, even they are now unemployed, working for reduced wages, and unable to pay for their children’s education, healthcare, and essential servi...

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Just wanted to take a few minutes to talk with you about Lebanon’s best and brightest who are staying home and trying to survive the awful economic and health crises in the country. We all know the situation: mounting national debt led to significant erosion of the Lebanese currency; inflation has soared; the cost of living has pushed more than 50% of Lebanese into poverty; and COVID-19 has disabled the educational system, closed many businesses, and left more than 35% of the country without jobs.

Since only 45% of the workforce is in the formal economy and therefore have some eligibility for social services, the rest have to rely on savings that they can only withdraw in small amounts from the banks, if they have savings left at all. It’s a catastrophe and there’s no sense of optimism as t...

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Without meaningful reforms Lebanon and its people face certain catastrophe. The lira will continue to plummet, poverty will affect more than 60% of the people as basic needs become even more expensive, and any semblance of a sustainable economy will evaporate. The government will not have money to support basic food, fuel, and water subsidies, and the Lebanese will feel like refugees in their own country.

As Michael Young, editor of Diwan, recently wrote in the National, “There are two paths open for Lebanon today. There is the path of going to the International Monetary Fund and accepting a reform plan that permits the institution to disburse funds to Lebanon. Or, barring that, there is the path of bankruptcy, state collapse, chaos, possibly famine, and mass emigration.”

Why is his prognosi...

Monday, May 11, 2020

Previously, I compared Tunisia and Algeria with Lebanon to look at key factors that might influence the outcomes of popular demonstrations in the countries. I noted that “The core issues in Lebanon, Algeria, and Tunisia center on the economy, inequality, corruption, and lack of institutional coherence and government integrity.” Of course, that could be said about most of the MENA region, my point being that despite macro-leve