It is painful to witness, even from afar, what recently befell Lebanon. This agony springs from the memories of my formative years during Lebanon’s post-independence era, when resentment of its ruling elites consolidated my belief in the necessity of change. I left the country without the reform wish fulfilled, and later watched the flames of civil war consume hopes of change – even when guns fell silent after the country’s second constitution in 1989. While the Lebanese started to come together to embark on reconstruction of the country, corruption, sectarianism, and the plundering of state’s resources soon took over. But even the healing process that followed the end of the war became vengeful. New elites – in fact, warlords – rose, proving themselves worse than their predecessors on every level. Nothing sums up their accomplishments more than today’s Lebanon teetering on the brink of financial breakdown, with hunger looming on the horizon.
Besides skyrocketing unemployment bordering on 40%, the population living in poverty ranging between 30-50%, and a sharp devaluation of the Lebanese pound compounded with a shortage of dollars, Lebanon's financial crisis has also claimed two cultural landmarks: an economic crisis-ridden American University of Beirut (AUB), and the permanent shutdown of Le Bristol, a 70-year old hotel.
These are brief excerpts from Elie Chalala's "How Lebanon’s ‘State within a State’ Escalated Financial Disaster: Two Beirut Landmarks – AUB, and Le Bristol Hotel – the Latest Collateral Damage," which appeared in Al Jadid, Vol. 24, No. 78, 2020.
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