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The Curious Case of two Lebanons

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Radar-news – Paul Touma

Lebanon is a small country situated in the middle between Syria and Palestine on the Mediterranean coast. At a glance, one would say this country is an iteration of paradise; from blue beaches to white mountains, Lebanon has it all. Yet all is not what it seems, under a beautiful robe lies corruption seeded within the political system for what appears to be centuries. Gaining its independence in 1943, not much can be said about governmental accomplishments as the country lacks basic human needs such as 24/7 electricity in the year 2021. Now amidst the greatest crisis Lebanon has seen since the first world war, the country seems to be in shambles as adversity has resulted in a division within the country.
Lebanon is no stranger to division; with 18 recognized religious sects and a seemingly equally divided political system. Yet the division that has occurred is one that the country has never encountered. As of this day, there are two Lebanons; one is scavenging for the basic essentials of life working paycheck to paycheck in order to survive, while the other flourishes with the benefits of a deteriorating currency. Possibly the largest problem resulting in the crisis is the Lebanese pound’s devaluation in comparison to the dollar, with it being pegged for more than 20 years at the exchange rate of 1507 LBP per 1 Dollar, while now being exchanged at the black-market rate of 20000 LBP for each dollar. It is not hard to imagine how much that can affect a country that almost completely relies on imports. Yet on the other side of the situation, people who worked for dollars (something very common) have woken up to their salaries being worth more than that of the most important government ministers within the country. Since the government has not yet set free the market prices, there are still some bills that Lebanese citizens pay at the 1507 rate, which bodes well for those who are paid in dollars. Take this as an example; an employee that got paid 1000$ in 2019 would be able to spend 1.5 million Lebanese pounds, this is a passable wage in Lebanon, yet right now the same employee is being paid 20 million. Factor in the increased prices for everything and then a line of pure profit is found, this line separates the two Lebanons. This line is one of the main reasons that most restaurants are fully booked on weekends, even if half the population is beneath the poverty line. The people who are enjoying their money in Lebanon are not to blame, even if the overall ambience in the country is depressive. One could do without the extensive social media posting yet to each their own. The problem is not within the disparity between those who are paid in dollars and others in LBP, the problem lies within a political system that has done little to stop this collapse.
Without even bothering to lift subsidies on goods that are paid for with what little money is left in the central bank, that are sometimes transported directly to the Syrian border in order to be sold at higher prices, it is clear that the government is failing. With a government not caring enough to form a new cabinet, the Lebanese people are not to be blamed for wanting to enjoy themselves while their country crumbles around them. If the political system was aiming to “divide an conquer”, then their results would be overwhelmingly positive. The only end in sight is that before long, there will be nothing left to divide.

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