Columnist

Lebanon 2021: The beginning of the end?

American-Lebanese journalist Mouafac Harb.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of country as we know it, or the beginning of the end of the crisis that has engulfed Lebanon for more than a year? It seems that the two are not mutually exclusive.

The economic crisis that hit Lebanon, resulting in the collapse of the national currency, is not the typical monetary crisis that other countries around the world endure. The Lebanese crisis is a mutated version of financial and monetary crises. This is the kind of problem that all sectors and slices of the society as well as the political spectrum helped create. It is difficult to pin down the responsibility on one faction or group. They are all culprits in the assassination of the country.

"Business will no longer be the same" may be the most common political prediction politicians and analysts uttered in 2020.

But what is business as usual? Corrupt sectarian -- former -- warlords stealing and squandering the country’s resources? Citizens and companies evading paying taxes? Preventing revenues from entering government coffers through illegal smuggling?

Or is it Lebanese political parties serving foreign agendas in return for money or to gain leverage in the fragile Lebanese political puzzle we call the national pact? Advancing personal political ambitions at the expense of the national interests? Appointing cronies in key positions instead of competent Lebanese in order to maintain influence and assure a sizable portion of the pie?

Unless all of the above-mentioned practices cease, Lebanon as a viable state will cease to exist. This Lebanon certainly won’t get the world’s empathy or assistance, two requirements for the country to continue breathing.

Lebanon has reached the moment of truth: The country has to change and the birth of a new system is a must if the territorial integrity of the country is to be preserved. In this regard, yes, this is the beginning of the end. Either the end of bad governance or the end of Lebanon as a respectable state among nations.

The year 2021 will be a turning point in the history of the country.

The head of the Maronite Church Patriarch Bechara al-Rai hinted that someone may be working to bring down the state. “There maybe some who are betting on the collapse of the state,” he said during his Sunday sermon. “Let them know that the collapse [of the state] will not open the door to seizing power, because people will never accept the artificial creation of a state that doesn’t resemble its identity,” he added.

This is a clear message that there may be an attempt to change the power sharing structure in the country that was slightly amended in 1990 Taief agreement that ended the 15 years of destructive civil war. It seems Bkirki is concerned that the economic collapse may lead to a reshuffling of the cards and lead Christians in Lebanon to lose more political clout in the future. Putting Lebanon together in 2021 is different than the circumstances of 1943 that surrounded the creation of modern Lebanon. There are new realities on the ground and the options are limited, making change imminent.

Only through responsible and modern thinking leaders can Lebanon be preserved. Lebanon does not have the luxury of time, but the economic collapse could be a wake-up call to build a stable, modern and viable nation.

Mouafac Harb is a veteran American-Lebanese journalist based in Beirut. He contributes a weekly column to The Daily Star.

 

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