Lebanon not sick with fever but ill with cancer
Some like to portray the situation in Lebanon as there being a secret society that is governing the country, made up of clerics, bankers, politicians, and arms and drugs dealers. That is why real change seems almost impossible or unlikely for another decade.
The surprise is in the large number of citizens taking to the streets, banging on pots, and turning their anger against politicians into a daily celebration all over the country, successfully drawing attention to the main economic and political issues. Collective complaints have united the Lebanese for the first time since the country was divided in the mid-1970s, most saliently along political or sectarian lines.
The anger was entirely aimed at the upper echelons of government, namely the Christian president, the Sunni prime minister, the Shiite speaker of parliament, as well as at hidden forces such as the leader of Hezbollah, who has a parallel army and more powers than the state itself.
Most of the therapeutic solutions issued by the captains of the sunken ship seem to be a ploy to buy more time
Most of the therapeutic solutions issued by the captains of the sunken ship seem to be a ploy to buy more time. Time is, in fact, the cheapest commodity in Lebanon, as the country is in a near-permanent, ongoing crisis that is unparalleled, except for the Palestinian cause. It is puzzling that there is no compelling reason why civilian life has not returned to normal since the end of the civil war. The war ceased in 1990, but the regime of war continued.
In the current crisis, ideas for a recipe for economic remedies, a reduction in government expenditures and the fight against corruption were put forward. However, Lebanon is not sick with fever but ill with cancer. Thus, reducing expenses and arresting a few fat cats will not convince international investors or Lebanese expatriates and the migrations will continue; and people will return to the street to complain.
Lebanon needs an integrated rehabilitation of the regime so that it does not continue to be a problem for its citizens and a problem for the region. Lebanon constitutes a problem for the region because it is being used as a platform to recruit mercenaries to fight in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and a market used for foreign governments and organizations to serve different agendas. In the light of this chaotic and perplexing situation, the proposed political and economic remedies will only succeed in prolonging the life of the crisis and exhausting the sick state.
Optimists believed that salvation was coming when information was leaked about the discovery of oil and gas off the coast of Lebanon. After five years of waiting, they know it is a mirage. Even if oil and gas were to be drilled and exports begin next January, as the French company Total says, it will not solve the problems of Lebanon while the same political structure remains in power.
The agreement between various political forces to share oil profits will ensure the status quo remains for many years to come, while oil will also increase conflicts and the use of religion and external alliances to maintain internal balances of power. Let us not forget that oil has been produced in countries such as Yemen, Sudan and Syria, and these countries have only witnessed more misery; it did not make their governments more compassionate or successful, even when the price of a barrel was above $100.
Without an updated political system that guarantees a minimum of stability, sovereignty and justice, as well as ending foreign alliances, Iranian and others, and stopping internal looting, the crisis will not shrink, but will grow, and people will return to protest and bang on cans and pots.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed