Pandemic and economic crisis in Lebanon

Pandemic and economic crisis in Lebanon

Photo: A wordplay in Lebanon: the “haircut” in the photo refers to the discounts that government wants to make on people`s deposits in banks / Samer El-Hajjar, April 2020

The pandemic and its side effects have hit Lebanon among others. Political expert Samer El-Hajjar sheds light on the general situation in this country through a brief interview with Malak Novruzova. 

Novruzova: How is the general situation regarding the pandemic in Lebanon as of mid-April? What is the government doing to handle the problem? 

El-Hajjar: If I am not mistaken, we have around 670 people infected with COVID-19. As for the government, it is not doing a great job in terms of tests. For example, the maximum tests we have per day is 700 which is not enough. That means that the number of the infected is not an indicator of the situation and that we need to do more tests to make sure that we are actually doing well in terms of health situation. Actually we are facing the biggest economic crisis in the country since the WWII, perhaps since the independence of Lebanon. 

What are the current economic, political and social aspects of the crisis besides the healthcare difficulties?

As I already said, we are facing the most serious, most dangerous and biggest crisis in this country since the WWII. Actually, the economic situation is catastrophic. Economic and financial losses are expected: according to a report, they can be around 83 billion dollar, 1.5 times the size of the local economy. The situation with banks is also complicated: you can not withdraw money from banks. People are facing high rates of inflation and unemployment, while poverty is increasing.
There is no clear and serious vision by the government on how to overcome the financial problems. The government is trying to put all the responsibilities of financial loses on citizens while corrupt politicians are still at their positions and enjoy the money stolen from the population.

What is the general mood among the population? 

People are angry, sad, frustrated and disappointed with the economic situation. No one can be happy with such high prices. They keep increasing while the economic situation is worsening  People are so angry that they will soon be in the streets again to protest political establishment.

What changes do you think Lebanon may have in post-pandemic period?

I think that main challenge for the post-pandemic period is related to how the government is going to solve or overcome the economic situation. It is a challenge. There will be changes in terms of lifestyle, economic situation, economic rates.People will change their lifestyle and the economic situation will be much more difficult. As you might know, there is a global economic crisis right now thanks to the pandmic which complicate things much more than right now.