Issues In Lebanon: 'Paris of the Middle East' in 2030
By: Adam Asmar
"The glory of Lebanon shall come to you: the cypress, the plane, and the pine, to bring beauty to my sanctuary, and glory to the place where I set my feet."- Isaiah 60:13
Since Biblical times, Lebanon has been praised for all that it is. Its nature, and its beauty, but today, it is a different story. Today, Lebanon is faced with many issues such as conflicts with its neighboring countries, inflation, corruption, poverty, religious issues and the list goes on and on. Lebanon today is not the Biblical utopia it once was, and with the current escalation of its problems, the future of Lebanon in 2030 may seem distant at the moment, but it is approaching, and its not looking too good.
Issue 1: Lebanese Nationalism (The Effects of Westernisation
With the colonial history of Lebanon (first the Ottomans, then the British and then the French), it is no surprise that Lebanon is experiencing cultural loss. What is surprising although is the fact that it is not being subjected to loss of its own culture by its former colonial powers, but there is a new player in this game– and that is America. After the 1975 Lebanon Civil War ended in 1989 (BBC, 2015) Lebanon experienced hyperinflation similar to that of Germany in WWI. 1981 the exchange rate had averaged L£4.31 to the dollar In 1986 however, the hyperinflation took a turn for the worst. By 1986 the country was on the verge of hyperinflation as the pound lost almost 85 percent of its already shrunken value during the course of the year. On February 11, 1987, it was at L£100 to the dollar and continued falling. By August of that same year, the pound was trading at more than L£250 to the US dollar (Collelo, 1987). Today the pound numbers in the 1000's to the dollar, and the country mostly uses American dollars instead of the pound. In 2030, the Lebanese pound is totally phased out of circulation, with the American dollar being used as their official currency. Though it does seem this way on the surface, the loss of the pound could take a detrimental toll on Lebanon's fading culture. Another loss of its culture is language. The Lebanese Education Ministry conducted a report and in the 1999-2000 school year, 62.5 percent of all Lebanese schools offered French as a second language.This number decreased to 55.8 percent in 2005-06. During this period, the number of schools offering English increased from 19.7 percent to 21.6 percent (Jahn, 2012). In 2030, without assuming that the current projections increase, the number of schools offering French is at 14.5 percent and the number of schools offering English will be at 31.1 percent, respectively. Even if it is a relic from the French colonial period, it is still a part of Lebanese culture, and with such a heavy rise of English and loss of French, Lebanon's native language of Arabic is facing a great threat of becoming irrelevant, especially in 2030. The last influence is media. As shown in the picture above "The Sisters" show is identical to "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" here on this side of the Atlantic, with all its bells and whistles of rowdiness and such.The trio rose to fame in their home country through their Instagram blog named StyleInBeirut, which started in 2013 and has gained 100,000 followers.Lebanese TV station LBC has announced they will launch the fly-on-the-wall program called The Sisters, which will see them living out their lives in front of the cameras. With this new wave of media, "The Sisters" now and who knows what else the future holds, Lebanon faces a huge threat to its traditional Arabic media, becoming subject to removal by Western influences. In this regard, by 2030, the current projections forecast for Lebanon to become very Western in many aspects of its daily life, with a change of loss of its own heritage and culture.
Issue 2: Government Corruption
“Are there good governments and bad governments? No, there are only bad governments and worse governments.”
― Charles Bukowski, The Most Beautiful Woman in Town & Other Stories
This quote has proven to be true in the history that the modern man has witnessed. Every country has its Watergate, but in Lebanon, Watergate is a synonym for everyday life. Every year the organization of Transparency International publishes a Corrupt Perceptions Index of all the worlds countries. The list goes from 1 to 177, with 1 being the least corrupt and 177 being the most corrupt. In 2013, Lebanon ranked 127 out of 177 (Transparency International, 2013). In 2014, Lebanon ranked 136 out of 174 countries. Off hand this information is deceiving, as the ranks change because the amount of countries included changes. In actuality, Lebanon's corruption issue is getting better. Transparency International also ranks on a point system, and Lebanon has been dropping ever since 2012 from 30 points to 27 points in 2014. With this current projection, assuming it doesn't increase or decrease, Lebanon should be corruption free by 2030, according to Transparency International at least. This projection is truly possible, as many things are changing in the country to stop corruption. Dekkenet al-Balad - "the country's shop" - sprung up on a main street in the Lebanese capital of Beirut this year to take a swing at the country's endemic corruption problem.The fake shop, set up to look like any other corner store at first glance, had its shelves lined with boxes filled with mock driver's licenses, ID cards and university diplomas, rather than groceries (Gatten, 2014). By 2030, with the technology revolution, corruption may very well be eradicated as the projections entail. Present day, an app is being created to help eradicate poverty. In 2012, a Russian entrepreneur launched a mobile app, Bribr, to report incidents, which was inspired by India's "I Paid a Bribe" website. Lebanon has followed in these footsteps with its own initiative. The Lebanese group has already received hundreds of anonymous reports of bribes paid since its campaign began on May 15 2014, with more than $460,000 reportedly changing hands. By 2030 with the ever so increasing technological revolution and with more widespread surveillance, corruption will very well be eradicated, and Lebanon is on the right track.
Issue 3: Poverty
"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty."
Last but not least, the cliche issue of poverty. Poverty leaves no one spared, especially in the Middle East. Lebanon is another example of the endemic of poverty, and it is on the rise. A report by the Social Affairs Ministry and the United Nations Development Programme in 2009 indicated that 28 percent of the Lebanese population qualify as poor, while 8 percent are living under conditions of extreme poverty with also approximately 300,000 Lebanese citizens are unable to meet basic food and non-food needs. Poverty rates are comparatively insignificant in the capital, with Beirut below 6 percent, while the North, a large rural province of Lebanon constitutes 53 percent of overall poverty.The report also found that it would cost $12 per Lebanese person per year to lift all poor individuals out of extreme poverty, amounting to a total of 48-50 million USD. Times have changed since this report, with a turn for the better. The report highlights the unequal distribution of expenditure among the population, with the poorer 20 percent of the population accounting for only 7 percent of all consumption in Lebanon while the richest 20 percent accounting for 43 percent (Saab, 2009). Although this may sound grave and Utopian, not all hope is lost. Recent studies show that poverty is declining in major cities. Although as small improvement, by 2030, these large cities will explain, and so will thier influence on the rest of the country, furthering the decline of the poverty rate. The largest problem, like all of the Middle East, is the rise of ISIS. Although the Islamic State hasn't directly impacted Lebanon yet, it has driven over 1.3 million Syrian refugees into Lebanon (Knefel,2015). These refugees face lacks of jobs and housing when entering Lebanon, but it is better than thier situation back home. These refugees come, and with lack of occupation, they are driven to constantly reproduce in the refugee camps (Knefel,2015). This drives up the birthrate, making things worse. They work low paying, "under the table" jobs as they are not official citizens so they are not guaranteed the minimum wage so they are practically exploited (Gilbert,2014). By 2030, The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria may become real, causing more refugees, increasing poverty in Lebanon.
In 2030, Lebanon will face a growing poverty issue, a totally honest and corruption free country with a very American, westernized culture. So will it be the utopia in the Bible? Probably not due to its poverty issue, but 2030 is 15 years away, and may things can be done to change Lebanon's fate.