Friday, January 31, 2020

Now that the new Diab-led government has been installed and preliminary approval given to the previously drafted national budget that has some reform features, there are contending scenarios for what may happen next. There is a consensus on the need to prioritize economic issues, especially those affecting the overall fiscal integrity of the country and the resulting decline in purchasing power for the majority of the Lebanese people. However, there are sharp divisions about what is possible in the coming months or even before the 2022 elections.

Some believe that this government will fail as the sectarian leaders who came together under Hezbollah’s prodding to assemble the new council of ministers will not allow critical reforms and austerity measures that would strike at their ability to...

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Analyzing the protests in Algeria, Iraq, and Lebanon to uncover similarities useful for finding possible  beneficial results such as greater power-sharing, more transparency in public transactions, a stronger commitment to rule of law, and concrete steps to promote inclusive economic prosperity leaves one dispirited. Sometimes analysis is just that – we can see what’s going on, we can describe the dynamics, draw conclusions, and outline scenarios – but offer few remedies as analysts seldom have the agency to effect or even influence change.

This is the hard lesson in all three cases, and most extremely in Lebanon, which, like the others, has come through a civil war, is riven with identity politics that frame negotiating positions, and has been unable to articulate a way forward despite the...

Monday, January 13, 2020

There have been many useful analyses of Lebanon’s current economic demise brought on by years of fiscal mismanagement, corruption, misappropriated funds, diversion of public finances, deficit spending, gross expansion of public service jobs, and other activities that drained the financial system of its integrity and hobbled the private banking system. The solutions proposed consistently call for the installation of a reform government empowered to make immediate and medium term changes in everyday activities, from capital controls of funds transfers to supporting the Lebanese pound to lessen the harsh depreciation in people’s incomes and quality of life.

Regardless of the recommendations, be it introducing a fair and robust tax system or installing regulatory bodies to supervise privatizati...

Thursday, January 2, 2020

It’s hard to fathom the levels of poverty that now exist in Lebanon, particularly in the less fortunate areas in towns and villages surrounding larger municipalities. After years of government mismanagement of the country’s finances, there are no short-term solutions to relieve the pressure on the lower and middle classes as the Lebanese currency has lost over one-third of its value in recent weeks. Dollar accounts are frozen, businesses are closed, and store shelves are showing fewer goods. There are stories of rising suicide rates, doctors personally purchasing medicines unavailable in government dispensaries, and deteriorating health, education, and social services across the country. And this does not include the impact on the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees miserable in makes...

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Priorities and Possibilities - A Future to Rebuild Together

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