The Lebanese military had to intervene to remove angry citizens across Lebanon from the bakeries and pastry shops they stormed amid a deepening food crisis.
Impatient residents stood in long lines in the summer heat to get symbolically small amounts of government-subsidized bread. However, many desperate Lebanese were prepared to buy 10 thin loaves of non-subsidized bread for 40,000 Lebanese pounds ($1.50).
With supplies running low and little progress in alleviating the food shortage, many Lebanese increasingly blame their politicians and local bakeries for the mismanagement of the food crisis.
Many Lebanese are struggling to survive, while criminal syndicates reportedly are profiting from selling subsidized flour and bread products on the black market, or exporting them illegally to Syria.
Lebanese Economy Minister Amin Salam tried to calm tensions in the country.
“Around 49,000 tons of wheat are expected to arrive in Lebanon by the end of this week. Hopefully, the ships will arrive faster. The crisis is the result of flour being stolen from our country,” Salam said.
“A crisis cell headed by the economy ministry will be formed and a new mechanism will be set up for distributing wheat and flour fairly, and prosecuting those creating the crisis,” he said.
Since corruption in Lebanon is endemic and reaches the highest offices in the country, ordinary residents increasingly view senior officials like Salam as an integral part of the problem, rather than the solution.
While Lebanon’s economic crisis has been worsening, with no apparent end in sight, another serious blow hit Lebanon in April, when Deputy Prime Minister Saadeh al-Shami declared bankruptcy.
“The state has gone bankrupt, as did the Banque du Liban, and the loss has occurred, and we will seek to reduce losses for the people,” al-Shami said, during an interview with the local Al Jadeed media outlet.
Lebanon’s current crisis began in 2019; since then, the Lebanese currency has lost 90% of its value, making it difficult for ordinary Lebanese residents to support their families.
The result has been rapidly growing and widespread poverty in the once thriving Middle Eastern state.
A whopping 80% of the Lebanese population reportedly live below the poverty line, as food prices have soared 500% in just one year.
Beyond the state declaring bankruptcy amid the growing food crisis, Lebanon is facing collapse in its electricity and energy sectors. Georges Brax, a member of the gas station owners’ syndicate in Lebanon, articulated a growing fuel crisis in the country.
“The central bank used to secure 100% of the U.S. dollars needed to import fuel, according to its Sayrafa platform rate. Now it provides only 85%. The remaining 15% needs to be secured based on the black-market rate,” Brax said.
While Lebanon is hardly the only country facing economic problems, the economic crisis in the small Middle Eastern state is reportedly among the worst in the world.
In June 2021, the World Bank ranked the economic crisis in Lebanon as one of the 10 worst financial crises in the world in the last 150 years.
The American Task Force for Lebanon stressed earlier in July the urgent need to establish a social-economic program “before it is too late.”
Edward Gabriel, the ATFL head, urged the Lebanese government to cooperate and carry out the necessary economic reforms to save Lebanon from a complete collapse.
“Time is moving quickly, and the government must expedite laws and policies, carry out the required reforms and take the necessary steps to meet the needs of citizens, to push forward negotiations with the International Monetary Fund,” Gabriel said. “We need a partner, and that partner is the government, which has to act quickly to achieve what is required from it.”