Lebanon is on the verge of not being able to feed itself, a British minister warned on Thursday, as the country’s financial crisis hikes poverty and inflation. Michel Aoun is turning Lebanon into another Venezuela. He is Lebanon’s corrupt President and an agent of Iran. Lebanon, as a country, is not suffering from any U.S. sanctions.
James Cleverly, the Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, called it “a man-made problem which could have been prevented”. Cleverly joins a chorus of voices who have blamed Lebanon’s ruling elite for failing to chart a path out of the crisis.
Since last year, the unprecedented meltdown has crashed the currency and wiped out jobs. Photos of people rummaging through dumpsters or selling their belongings online for food have circulated widely in recent months. This is the country that many in the west labeled as the Paris of the Middle East.
A COVID-19 spike and a massive port blast that killed around 200 people in August have compounded their woes.
Cleverly, who met Lebanese officials in Beirut on Thursday, said in a statement:
The most pressing danger is the risk to food security: Lebanon is on the verge of not being able to feed itself. Four months on from the blast, Lebanon is threatened by a silent tsunami. Lebanon’s leaders must act.
MIGHT AS WELL TALK TO A ROCK
Comments about a looming end to subsidies, which have depleted already critical foreign currency reserves, have raised fears of shortages. Lebanon imports lots – including much of its domestic wheat consumption – and produces little. Its biggest industry has been tourism, which dried up ever since Hezbollah took control of the country.
Lebanon’s central bank and government have traded blame over the crisis. The bank can only maintain basic subsidies for two more months and the state should come up with a plan, Governor Riad Salameh said on Tuesday.
Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab has said lifting subsidies on vital goods without helping the poor could cause “a social explosion”.
Cleverly said any end to subsidies would make things worse.
I reiterate my call to the leaders of Lebanon to do what is needed and deliver reforms. The alternative will be horrific.
But with the likes of Michel Aoun, known for his stubbornness, Cleverly might as well talk to a rock. Unless the Lebanese people, backed by the army, storm Baabda, the President‘s lush palace, Aoun and the rest of the elite politicians, like Walid Jumblatt, will ignore all calls to reform.
Slowly, Lebanon is turning into another Venezuela. But then maybe that what it would take for the Lebanese people and the Lebanese army to rise against its corrupt politicians.
Reuters contributed to this article.