For how long will the world continue to pay attention to Lebanon’s self-inflicted problems and tolerate its leaders?
The French initiative, labeled as the last chance for Lebanon to get its act together economically, is in fact the last attempt by Lebanon’s old friends to try to usher the country toward political maturity, 77 years after its independence. The international frustration was best articulated by President Emmanuel Macron when he addressed the Lebanese saying “help us to help you.”
Yet, the political clique remains entrenched in their quest to protect their influence in a country stripped of its resources and on the verge of total collapse. Obviously the game is not over, the blame game remains intact. And business is still as usual. After squandering the country’s resources, the same people are fighting over partitioning a potential pie that may not arrive, leaving people with despair and uncertainty about the future.
The sympathy toward Lebanon expressed by traditional friends, is eroding in the wake of the continuing political bickering. Diplomats, Arab and foreign, express their disappointment and wonder if the ruling factions are realizing the shape the country is currently in. It is so difficult for diplomats to convey to their capitals the behavior of Lebanese political parties and make sense of their irrational and irresponsible behavior.
Why would someone cause a gridlock in the formation of a new Cabinet simply because they want the energy portfolio? The ministry that is the major reason why the national debt reached record highs, making Lebanon on top of the list of indebted countries. Would it make sense to block a new Cabinet and play the time game in a country in default and under tremendous pressure? Some are awaiting the results of the US presidential election, hoping a change in administration would enhance their political posturing.
Speaking to diplomats and international organizations officials, you feel an attitude change toward Lebanon. No one is willing to cut Lebanon some slack in order to find corrupt leaders. The blame also goes to the Lebanese people who rally behind their leaders once the sectarian banner is raised. People are becoming fatalistic and starting to lose hope in the future of their country.
Unable to bring about a change is frustrating activists. There is no mechanism to change the status quo, given the sectarian system that shields corruption from accountability. Lebanese known for their resilience and survival instincts after withstanding years of destructive war, are showing signs of wane. The Aug. 4 horrible explosion dealt a psychological blow to people’s ability to surpass hardship.
Lebanon is the country of unanswered questions. Until today the government has not revealed the truth about what happened at the Beirut port. One year after entering the economic crisis, the public still doesn’t know what happened to their savings.
Accountability, transparency and justice are empty promises by politicians who mastered how to cling to power while practicing corruption, cronyism and getting away with murder.
The internal rot of the Lebanese state makes it almost impossible to reform from within. And no financial aid would be injected in the economy in the absence of meaningful reform.
Lebanon needs outside help, at a time the world’s tolerance toward Lebanon is fading. The region is filled with competing and more pressing problems than listening to spoiled Lebanese politicians.
Millions of people are living in refugee camps escaping wars and destruction and extremism is spreading faster than COVID-19, while Lebanese politicians jockeying over Cabinet seats. Personal ambitions, greed and lack of national responsibility are leading to the demise of the country that was once the pearl of the Middle East. The light at the end of the tunnel may be dimmed if powered by the Energy Ministry.
Mouafac Harb is a veteran American-Lebanese journalist based in Beirut.