BEIRUT: As the Lebanese people prepare to welcome the arrival of a new year, they are exhausted by the escalating suffering they endured in 2021.
A year marked by additional crises affecting the health sector, the justice system and the military is ending against a backdrop of increasingly icy relations between the country’s political leaders.
Images of parents in tears because they are unable to buy medicine or milk for their children, and scenes of long lines at gas stations were among the most graphic illustrations of the humiliations faced by citizens. have been submitted.
The value of the minimum wage of 675,000 Lebanese pounds fell to just $ 23 as the dollar exchange rate hit an all-time high of 29,000 pounds.
Over the past 12 months, Lebanon has gone through crises described by the World Bank in June as “the most serious in the world”.
Monetary policies have been blamed as the Lebanese Central Bank has seen another sharp decline in its foreign exchange reserves. He repeatedly resorted to printing more currencies to secure the necessary liquidity, which fueled inflation.
In August, it stopped subsidizing imports of fuel and then drugs. Workers now have to spend more than half of their wages just to get to work. The lives of many people are at risk because drugs are not available for purchase or, if so, they cannot afford them.
Lebanon literally fell into obscurity this year as Electricité du Liban – the country’s main electricity company – was unable to provide minimum levels of electricity, and many people had to stop renting from private generators as monthly costs skyrocketed.
The removal of state subsidies has not come with any clear mechanism to protect citizens from poverty, as a card-based charge card program for the poor and the middle class has yet to be approved. .
Growing social instability has been reflected in the security situation and increasing crime rate in the country, with theft cases increasing 137% compared to 2020.
On February 4, publisher and political activist Lokman Slim, a prominent Hezbollah critic, was assassinated. He had previously said he had received death threats from the group.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah has spared no effort to consolidate its control over the country, going so far as to threaten Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the judicial inquiry into the Beirut port explosion, accusing him of politicizing investigation.
Despite Hezbollah’s challenges to the Lebanese government and US sanctions, importing fuel from Iran via Syria in September did not last long amid the ongoing crises.
A young man from an Arab clan in Khaldeh, south of Beirut, assassinated a Hezbollah official in August, and members of the same clan ambushed party supporters at the funeral of their colleague in Khaldeh, who killed five people.
The climax of the armed confrontation between Hezbollah and its opponents took place in Ain Al-Remmaneh in October, when a four-hour shootout between fighters armed with machine guns and missiles took place. Seven people died in the clashes and dozens were injured. The Amal Movement and Hezbollah accused the Lebanese Forces party of attacking protesters, loyal to Amal and Hezbollah, who were heading to the courthouse to demand the impeachment of Judge Bitar.
Since resuming the investigation into the Beirut port explosion, it has been suspended seven times by politicians accused of being involved in the circumstances leading up to the explosion, including the former Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned after being unable to form a government of independent specialists to support a French aid initiative, apparently because the process was hampered by the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah.
Najib Mikati took over and, after 13 months of political stalemate, formed a new government in September. However, the same old political forces were represented, and within a month his work was interrupted by Hezbollah and the Amal movement.
The crisis in the country peaked towards the end of the year when Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries severed diplomatic and economic ties with Lebanon to protest the offensive criticism leveled by the Minister of Information. George Kordahi on the war in Yemen.
The politician’s late resignation failed to improve strained relations, as Saudi officials said “Hezbollah continues to destabilize Lebanon and export drugs to the Kingdom.”
Due to the continuing economic crisis and Lebanon’s inability to pay its dues for the work of the International Tribunal for Lebanon, the tribunal was suspended for good in July.
The country faces two important political events in 2022: the legislative elections on May 15, in which thousands of expatriates will be entitled to vote, and a presidential election in October.
A great challenge remains the implementation of the reforms demanded by the international community as a condition of assistance to help Lebanon overcome its economic and social crises.
Lebanon has at least been promised an improvement in the quality and reliability of its electricity supply, thanks to Egypt and Jordan, over the coming year. And the Lebanese security services have promised to continue their fight against drug trafficking across the country.
Meanwhile, the global pandemic continues to rage, and at the start of the new year, many people in Lebanon will be awaiting test results, amid violations of precautionary measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.
The Lebanese hope these are the only negative results they see in what they desperately need to be a better year ahead.