Lack of Action by Lebanon’s Political Leaders Has Prolonged the Economic Crisis

Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of an elite Lebanese security agency, firmly told officers to steadfastly continue their duties in the face of national chaos. Ibrahim warned that the country’s institutions have been undermined by “the great collapse.” Lebanon’s financial crisis has continued for two years and the currency has lost 90% of its value. Despite this, policymakers are unable to form a government. With over half the country living in poverty, Lebanon’s leaders need to cooperate and negotiate to develop a functioning political apparatus. 

Most recently, Lebanon has been suffering massive shortages in essential resources like oil, water, and medicine. Reuters reported that cancer patients were protesting because their treatment is no longer guaranteed. Additional energy shortages portend a potential collapse of the electric grid: a harrowing threat to the lives of hundreds of hospital patients. Lebanon’s essential services are being forced to shut down or shorten hours because of resource deficits. “We fear that … the patience of Lebanese will run out and that we will all fall into the furnace of complete chaos, manifestations of which we have started to see in all fields,” Sheikh Derian, Grand Mufti of Lebanon, said during a Friday sermon. Derian further explained that “the matter requires serious and immediate treatment, otherwise we are truly going to what is worse and to complete collapse.”

The U.N. secretary-general urgently called for Lebanese leaders to form a new government. The establishment of a new government following the Beirut explosion has been prevented by the bickering of rival factions. Since current Prime Minister Najib Mikati was appointed in late July, there have been over a dozen meetings to discuss the formation of a new government. However, little progress has been made.

The World Bank described Lebanon’s situation as one of the most severe economic depressions since the mid-nineteenth century. The World Bank identifies political corruption and unsustainable finance plans as root causes of the current crisis. Mashreq Regional Director for the World Bank Saroj Kumar Jha is concerned that the disaster means Lebanon will suffer permanent social and economic losses.

Foreign donors have committed to providing the struggling country aid once a functioning government is assembled. Given these stipulations, Lebanon’s fragmented political factions must find common ground and act quickly to enact targeted reforms addressing the sources of the country’s crisis. Current leaders need to be motivated to set aside their differences and work with adversaries to create a successful government. Furthermore, Lebanon’s leaders might be influenced by religious organizations. The Maronite Church has previously tried to intervene and mediate government negotiations. This approach, combined with assistance and relief from international organizations may enable Lebanon’s ruling figures to agree on a new government before the country descends into complete chaos.