Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain have withdrawn their envoys from Lebanon while also sending back or summoning the Lebanese Ambassador. The sudden diplomatic row erupted after Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi criticised the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, disturbing the nations participating in the Yemen conflict. The diplomatic crisis could not have come at a worse time as Lebanon teeters towards being a failed state.
Lebanon’s public debt is now 175% of GDP. The Lebanese pound has lost 90% of its value against the US dollar, thereby fueling hyperinflation. Consequently, prices have risen more than 400%, making even food unaffordable for many while more than 75% of Lebanese live below the poverty line.
Lebanon is facing an acute shortage of fuel resulting in shut down of major power stations. A severe foreign exchange crunch is the main reason behind the fuel shortage. It is leading to power blackouts that now go up to 22 hours a day in many parts of the country.
Lebanon has a huge population of refugees from Syria and Palestine. These 2.3 million migrants are themselves living in a dire situation, moreover, the Lebanese economy is crumbling under their load.
Money and Brain Drain
Frustrated with the failing system, some 40% of Lebanese doctors and 30% of nurses have left the country. The brain drain among entrepreneurs, lawyers, teachers and other professionals is of the same proportion. At the same time, banks are going insolvent. With collapsing banking system, government officials and the rich have pushed billions of dollars out of Lebanon.
A fortnight back, the Lebanese capital of Beirut saw some of the worst gun clashes spilling blood onto the streets and bringing back the memories of a bloody civil war of 1975. The happenings only underline the fragility of social peace in Lebanon.
What do world bodies say?
The situation is so grave that the World Bank has described the situation in Lebanon as one of the world’s top ten most severe crises since the mid-nineteenth century. The Council on Foreign Relations has termed Lebanon a potential failed state. The Fund for Peace considers Lebanon in the league of failed states like Syria, Somalia and Yemen.
Risks from Failed Lebanon
A failed Lebanon threates not only Europe but the entire Middle East of new migrant waves. Moreover, a failed Lebanon could mean a free run for Hezbollah. Thus, it poses a national security risk for Israel, with Hezbollah threatening to rain rockets on the latter and boasting about 1,00,000 fighters with it.
The emergence of Hezbollah and the dominant role it plays in the government is forcing more European, other Arab donor countries and international lending institutions away from Lebanon.
The 2020 Beirut port blast has laid bare all these problems plaguing Lebanon and exposed Hezbollah’s role in further deterioration of the Lebanese economy. Overall, it appears that the damage is beyond repairs and the new Prime Minister Najib Mikati, leading a Hezbollah-controlled government, will be left helpless.