Lebanon is currently facing a severe financial crisis, and its population is struggling to afford food and other necessities. The ongoing crisis has particularly taken a toll on already marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as farmers, women, and those within the low socioeconomic framework.
Lebanon’s current economic state can be attributed to a plethora of events. After the Lebanese Civil War, which took place between 1975 and 1990, the Lebanese government introduced macroeconomic policies that radically transformed the economy’s structure. As a result, Lebanon’s economy became highly dependent on imports, and local production was discouraged. This fostered a strong dependency on foreign currency flows, particularly dollar flows. The Lebanese government also accumulated significant debt to modernize and develop the country, which benefited the country’s elite. However, their untethered borrowing, coupled with corruption and mismanagement, fostered considerable income inequality and set the country’s economy up for disaster. In 2019, inflows of dollars declined significantly, sparking an economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated. According to the World Bank, the situation in Lebanon is considered one of the worst economic depressions in recent history.
The ongoing crisis has especially taken a toll on Lebanon’s farmers. Over the last two years, the Lebanese pound has lost approximately 90% of its value. These staggering inflation rates have made it prohibitively expensive for farmers to import materials such as fertilizer, seeds, and animal feed. Many farmers have been forced out of work, unable to feed their livestock and obtain necessary materials. As the country starves, demand for Lebanese farmers to produce more is rising. However, given the current economic situation, meeting this demand has proven difficult and could result in the adoption of subpar and even dangerous agricultural techniques.
Lebanon’s economic woes have also strongly impacted the country’s women. As inflation rises, so has the price of menstrual pads, most of which are imported. Recent estimates indicate that the cost of pads had risen approximately 500% since the beginning of the crisis. Given that over half of Lebanon’s population is now living in poverty, thousands of women are now forced to seek out alternatives.
The price of other everyday necessities, like bread, has also skyrocketed. During the earlier parts of the crisis, the Lebanese government provided subsidies for some essential goods, including medicine, fuel, and flour. However, as the crisis worsened, the government rolled back these subsidies. Earlier this month, the government raised the price for bread for the seventh time this year, as wheat imports have become more expensive. Similarly, as the price of imported fuel rose, fuel subsidies decreased. As a result, hospitals and the airport have resorted to rationing fuel and electricity use. Many pharmacies have also refused to operate, as they lack access to critical imported medicines. In an effort to combat Beirut’s growing inequality, basic necessities are now prohibitively expensive for most citizens. The government recently introduced ration cards for the country’s poorest, but the rising unemployment rates and ongoing government inefficiency have painted a bleak picture of the country’s economic future.