“Hope is slim”: Lebanon’s state of paralysis and collapse | World Bank Business and Economic News

Beirut, Lebanon -Lebanon has had a government that has not been formally operated for nearly 10 months. President Michel Aoun and returning prime minister Saad Hariri could not reach an agreement on the cabinet.

Disagreements centered on the number of ministers and how they were distributed according to sect and political representatives. The two have met 18 times since Hariri was appointed in October.

Hariri and his party, the Future Movement, insist that they are pushing for a technocratic government focused on reforms.

“they [Aoun and allies] Hope that the government can control and have the veto power. “Future Movement MP Mohamad Hajjar told Al Jazeera. “The expert government of Hariri is represented in the balance of sects and the representation of Muslims and Christians, but They hope to establish a government based on quotas. “

At the same time, Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement Party stated that they do not want to have a veto, but want to have a more representative government.

Aoun said in a letter to Congress last week: “Obviously, the prime minister-designate cannot form a government that has the ability to redeem.” “He is doing it. [Lebanon] Capture him, trap the people and the government, and take them into the abyss as hostages. “

The President’s Office was unable to comment to Al Jazeera.

In Lebanon, a country with an exquisite sect power-sharing system, political paralysis is not uncommon. Since Aoun came to power in the second half of 2016, there has been no president for nearly two and a half years.

Lebanon today is free from a severe economic crisis, which has pushed more than half of its population into poverty. In addition to having to deal with the local currency, which has depreciated more than 85% of its value in just over a year, people can hardly afford basic food that has become 400% more expensive.

In 2020 alone, Lebanon has witnessed the devaluation of its currency, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further shattered its economy. In August, the devastating Beirut port explosion killed more than 200 people, injured about 6,000, and paralyzed many communities in the capital.

“There is almost no hope anymore”

As the country maintains its final fiscal reserves, the international community has pledged to support Lebanon under the premise that it forms a government and carries out economic and structural reforms.

In the past three years, states and international organizations have pledged billions of dollars in loans and assistance to Lebanon to repair its poor infrastructure, rebuild the destroyed Beirut port, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) plan To help the country get out of economic difficulties.

The Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon said in a statement issued by Al Jazeera that the country’s rulers need to “put the country’s interests on the political and personal agenda” to help the country move towards recovery.

The UN office said: “The biggest impact of this crisis is on the Lebanese people who are paying a high price.” “People have almost no hope.”

Nevertheless, the ruler of Lebanon did not succumb. Aoun hinted that Hariri should resign several times, and some officials close to Hariri suggested that this choice is already on the table.

Hajjar said: “This is possible, but it is not a decision.” “At present, he has chosen to assume the responsibility and commitment to the government.”

France’s “disastrous defeat”

Although repeated statements and meetings between the international community and Lebanese officials were of no avail, the former colonists in Lebanon tried to be more proactive.

French President Emmanuel Macron flew to Beirut a few days after the port bombing in early August to provide humanitarian assistance, subject to structural reforms. Macron and other world leaders have raised about US$300 million in humanitarian aid for the country.

Macron returned in late August, urging the formation and reform of the government before providing any assistance to rebuild the port and help the hard-hit economy. He issued a draft economic roadmap, often referred to as the “French Initiative,” which included reforms such as reforming the power sector, conducting forensic audits of central bank accounts, and resuming negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.

The Lebanese authorities promised to commit to the plan. Macron and the devastating explosion seem to be a turning point, but it is not. By late September, the French president accused the country’s leaders of “collective betrayal” and gave them six weeks to implement the French initiative. That did not happen, and even the travel restrictions imposed by France on Lebanese officials accused of obstructing the formation of the government failed to work.

Joseph Bahout, director of the Issam Fars Institute at the American University of Beirut and former adviser to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, described the French initiative as a “failure, not a fiasco.”

Bacht told Al Jazeera: “It left too much room for the Lebanese to make it worse.” He explained that Macron initially called for the establishment of an independent technocratic government, and later traced back to a political The consensus government reached a settlement.

“Not enough sticks, too many carrots,” Bahut said.

Many of Macron’s demands resonated with angry people who tried to overthrow Lebanon’s ruling class by the end of 2019.

“when he [Macron] Sitting with the Lebanese leader, he began to deprive the condition: “Election? We can exclude it. International inquiries about port explosions? We will not stick to it,” Bahout explained.

The system is dead

Even at one of the most critical moments in its short history, the tiny Lebanese ruler, trapped in a cash shortage, ignored the multi-billion dollar financial aid promised by the international community while continuing to engage in political debate.

But this may just be the nature of the country’s sectarian power-sharing system. Bassel Salloukh, a professor of political science at the Lebanese American University, said the system “has reached a deadlock.”

“This is’zombie power sharing’; the system is dead, but it is still unable to carry out any reforms.” Salloukh told Al Jazeera. “No one wants to really take the risk of collapse, or the kind of policies that need to be adopted in response to the requirements of the IMF and the World Bank.”

In the past few decades, the ruling party in Lebanon, which dominated the political and economic landscape, may have merely committed political suicide, especially involving public sector employment and private contracts in exchange for political loyalty.

Salloukh explained: “The sectarian system is not for self-reform, but for self-replication.” “Any decision to reform the economy will destroy the economy built over the past 30 years.”

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