Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
Najib Mikati has received 73 votes from the Lebanese Parliament, making him the new Prime Minister elect. He stated he would not have accepted the position unless he had international support, and he agreed with President Michel Aoun to form a government using the French model.
The UN will co-host along with France an international conference scheduled for August 4. Diplomates believe the topics will be how to force Lebanese political elites to agree on reforms, and how to deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding. The fate of the Lebanese Army also is threatened, and will surely garner attention.
Lebanon has been without a government for nine months, which has further acerbated the economic meltdown.
The World Bank issued a shocking report that ranks Lebanon as one of the three world's worst financial crises in more than 150 years. The Lebanese currency has lost more than 90 per cent of its value since late 2019, and its GDP has fallen by some 40 per cent since 2018, in an economic free fall. The report largely blames the country's sectarian political elites for the crisis.
The cost of food has soared by 700% over the past two years with increases quickening. "The price of a basic food basket increased by more than 50 percent in less than a month," Nasser Yassin, told AFP Wednesday.
The Lebanese pound in around 15 times the official rate, with the black market trading at 22,000 to the dollar.
The government is almost out of hard currency, which means they can't buy staple items such as medicines and gasoline. Miles-long lines of angry motorists wait at gasoline stations to fill up. Even the biggest hospitals complain they have run out of some medicines.
Water is life, and the Lebanese water system is on life-support. At any moment the entire system could collapse, leaving millions at immediate risk of having no water. The UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, is warning of an imminent disaster.
Over the next four to six weeks, most water pumping stations will cease functioning due to the economic crisis, which has caused shortages in funding supplies, chlorine and spare parts.
After the collapse, water prices will soar by 200 per cent per month as residents rush to find alternative private suppliers.
"The water sector is being squeezed to destruction by the current economic crisis in Lebanon, unable to function due to the dollarized maintenance costs, water loss caused by non-revenue water, the parallel collapse of the power grid and the threat of rising fuel costs," said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in the country.
"A loss of access to the public water supply could force households to make extremely difficult decisions regarding their basic water, sanitation and hygiene needs," she added.
Almost 2 million people have access to just 35 liters per day, compared to the national average of 165 liters prior to 2020. The price of bottled drinking water has doubled over the past year.
"At the height of the summer months, with COVID-19 cases beginning to rise again due to the Delta variant, Lebanon's precious public water system is on life support and could collapse at any moment," Ms Mokuo said.
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