Beirut, Lebanon – 23-year-old Hadi Chalhoub immigrated from Lebanon to Atlanta, Georgia, just a few days later Beirut Port Explosion Last August.
Almost a year later, the interior designer returned to this crisis-ridden country to visit family and friends. His suitcase was filled with painkillers, diabetes medicines, eye drops and other pills and pills.
“I had to put the drugs in small bottles so that they all fit,” Charhob told Al Jazeera. “That’s a big bag of medicine.”
In less than two years, Lebanon’s economy has come to the brink of collapse. The depreciation of the Lebanese pound (90% against the dollar since the end of 2019) and the lack of foreign exchange have made it difficult for Lebanese importers to pay foreign suppliers, which has led to a severe shortage of medicines and other products. commodity.
Shocked by the news of the country’s escalating economic crisis, coupled with fuel shortages and prolonged power outages every day, Lebanese expatriates returning home filled life-saving medicines, hygiene products, infant formula, diapers, and even their family’s power banks. Their suitcases.
Many people also carry U.S. dollars, a rare but very valuable commodity in cash-strapped Lebanon, where half of the population now lives in poverty.
Most importantly, Lebanon has not had a mature government for more than 11 months.
The World Bank says Lebanon’s economic crisis is In the three most serious Since the middle of the 19th century, the world has been unprecedented.
Philippe Aftimos, a 39-year-old Brussels doctor, is trying to secure “one year’s worth” medicine for his parents and sister before returning to Lebanon. His suitcase is full of various medicines, including medicines for treating cholesterol, high blood pressure, and depression.
“I don’t want to live in uncertain anxiety [over my family’s health],“The doctor told Al Jazeera.
“It has been two years since my last visit… I am obviously very worried about this situation.”
Aftimos tracks deteriorating developments from a distance. “My heart is broken every morning,” he said.
At the same time, the 35-year-old programmer Mireille Raad will not only prepare a few bags of medicine for the family, but also take home extra painkillers and multivitamin tablets, which will be donated to families in need when he is about to visit his family.
She anxiously followed the news from Washington, DC, and heard the tragic stories of friends and family through WhatsApp.
“I still worry that the customs at the airport will stop me because I am carrying too many drugs,” Rad told Al Jazeera.
Lebanon Relies heavily on remittances Millions of expats come from all over the world to maintain their economic development-at the highest level in the Middle East and North Africa.
In 2018, these remittances from foreigners were almost equivalent to 13% of the country’s entire GDP. Now, the authorities hope that expats and tourists can provide a lifeline by spending money in the country’s crisis-hit economy.
Political leaders clearly called on foreigners to visit Lebanon and spend money.
In late June, President Michel Aoun stated that the Lebanese diaspora had “Role in helping to revitalize the economy“.
The caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab also said Hope that tourists and Lebanese expats flock to Go to this country with a shortage of funds and use hard currency to stimulate its struggling market.
But some people think that this is just a strategy to gain more time, because Lebanon has not had a mature government since August last year, nor has it formulated a comprehensive economic recovery plan.
Negotiating with the International Monetary Fund to implement a rescue plan Failed in July 2020Unless Lebanon implements economic and structural reforms, the international community will continue to withhold development aid.
Mohamad Faour, a postdoctoral researcher in finance at the University of Dublin, believes that the authorities see remittances as “another shot of morphine” in Lebanon’s spiral economy.
“[Prioritising remittances] It means refocusing on these short-term remedies at the cost of reliable financial plans and solutions,” Fore told Al Jazeera.
“This is the life of a system that should go bankrupt.”
Anger and resentment
Since anti-government protests swept the country at the end of 2019, many Lebanese expatriates around the world have not returned home.
At that time, there was a brief period of hope and optimism that the Lebanese could overthrow their ruling party. They said that these parties were corrupt and managed public funds and resources at the expense of the people.
Ramsey Nasser, a 34-year-old software developer in Brooklyn, New York, said his only source of optimism now is the recent anti-establishment victories in engineering conglomerate and college student elections.
But when Nasser packed cash and mobile power for his family, friends, and charities, he admitted that he felt “powerless” when watching things happen from a distance.
“It’s like watching your loved one slowly die from an incurable disease,” he said. “I am very sad that this country continues to make people and minds intolerable, causing their lives to bleed.”
As the economy continues to deteriorate, many young professionals Choose to go abroad In the so-called “brain drain”.
Poor families chose the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Cyprus, hoping to have the opportunity to settle in Europe.
If Lebanese security agencies did not intercept these crowded rafts — or they did not sink on the way — the Cyprus authorities would forcibly repatriate them.
Chalhoub felt very lucky that he was able to find opportunities in the United States. He hopes that friends and family members who are still in Lebanon can join him.
“I don’t understand why or even how they stay here. There is no reason,” he said angrily.
“Even the most basic-gas, water, electricity-no. I just don’t understand!”