Three new problems
Three developments since 2019 have exacerbated the situation.
First, the government tried to raise money by imposing a tax on all WhatsApp calls, which many Lebanese families use because phone calls are so expensive. The tax upset people – many of whom saw it as another example of inequality from the government – and led to large and sometimes violent protests. “People outside looked at the country and said, ‘Why would I involve my company in such a place? “,” In Ben.
Second, the pandemic damaged Lebanon’s already vulnerable economy. Tourism, which accounted for 18 percent of Lebanon’s prepandemic economy, was particularly hard hit.
Third, a huge explosion in the port of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, killed more than 200 people in August 2020 and destroyed several thriving neighborhoods. “A lot of people couldn’t afford to fix their homes,” Ben said. (This Times project takes you into the harbor and shows how corruption helped make the explosion possible.)
And now what?
Lebanon formed a new government last month, for the first time since the explosion. The Prime Minister is Najib Mikati, a billionaire who has held the post twice before in 2005.
The French government and other outsiders have pushed the Lebanese government to implement reforms, but there is little evidence that it will. The Biden administration, focused on other parts of the world, has chosen not to get deeply involved.