Friday, 26 October 2007

Black Lebanese

The Financial Times profiles the century old community that crashed onto the shores of West Africa.

"Generations of Lebanese have married locally, adopted creole and staked their destinies on their adopted homeland—in spite of their lack of influence over the running of the country

Are they related?

Kamal Jumblat, secular left-wing leader

Walid Jumblat, sectarian right-wing leader

Thursday, 25 October 2007

4 October 2007

Bush's message to Saad Hariri before he threatened to dump him...

"I told this courageous leader [Saad Hariri] that the United States strongly supports the success of democracy in Lebanon; that we respect your country and that we understand the obstacles that you face."

George Bush
Office of the Press Secretary
4 October 2007

25 July 1958

Eisenhower's message to Chamoun before he dumped him....

Dear Mr. President

I wish to thank you for your message of July 21 in which you express personally and on behalf of Lebanon gratitude for the United States' affirmative response to Lebanon's call for assistance. The purpose of our action was to help your country preserve its independence, in accord with the inherent right of nations to cooperate for self-defense. Our countries have long enjoyed close and friendly relations, and I look forward to further cooperation between the American people and the people of Lebanon in furthering the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter.


Exchange of Letters Between the President and
President Chamoun of Lebanon.
Dated 25 July 1958
[Released 27 July 1958]

Privateers 2008

The British government feels that Lebanon's services are ripe for picking. Among the opportunities for the privateers listed on the UK ministry of trade website are:

Water – water and wastewater collection, treatment and disposal;
Environment – solid waste, air pollution and biodiversity protection present key areas of opportunity;
Construction – one of Lebanon’s most active sectors;
Leisure and Tourism – after years of unrest Lebanon is regaining its former reputation as the tourism capital of the Middle East;
Health – major hospital refurbishment programme, plus health tourism

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

No tourists 2007

Janes Intelligence Report has a short piece on the decline of trafic through Rafic Hariri International Airport (RHIA).

"According to the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism, the number of visitors dropped from 630,804 between January and June 2006 to 412,041 in the same period this year. RHIA has consequently seen a 20-25 per cent drop in passengers compared to 2006, with only half of the facility's six million annual capacity being used."

Downtown 2007

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Class struggle 2008

An IMF/Paris III proposal to reduce Lebanon's $40 billion debt (run up over the last decade) will hit hardest those who can least afford it.

In 2008 the Siniora government will attempt to dump the burden of the economic crisis on working class.

In brief this plan will involve:
• Implementation of fiscal measures equivalent to around 10 percent of GDP over five years.

• Reduction of government debt to under 130 percent of GDP by 2012— from the current 180 percent.

• Introduction of a “global income tax” as of 2008.

• Restraint on current spending— social projects, wages etc.

• Energy and social sector reforms with the reduction in fuel/gasoline subsidies.

• Privatisation of the telecoms industry (one of the few that makes money for the government)

• Tearing apart the pensions system

• A full scale assault on public sector workers, such as civil servants. Government workers, who are banned by law from strike action, will face cuts in “staffing and remuneration”.

Alongside this will be “reducing the costs of doing business”. In effect dumping "red tape"— such as employment protection, benefits, health and safety, travel subsidies.

This won't come easy.

The IMF warns of the “political implementation risks and shocks to the macroeconomic environment”. As these “reforms” will hit the poor, working class and lower middle class, the IMF proposes that a few poor relief schemes are put into place to deflect the coming anger.

They recommend “reallocating social spending toward better targeted redistribution schemes.” The "undeserving poor", no doubt, will go to the wall.

It notes that, “unless the reforms enhance social and economic conditions for the population at large, it may prove difficult to maintain the reform momentum.”

The question that is always put when neo-liberal policies are challenged is: where should the money come from? The majority of Lebanon’s debt is private (unlike with most countries in the Global South). The one sector that has been booming, and is awash with cash, is banking.

The second source is, of course, the billions of dollars salted away by the rich.

Lebanon has always had a complex interplay between class and sect. Today the "political crisis" plays itself out along sectarian lines. The economic struggle, in contrast, is firmly rooted in the exploitation of one class over the other.

The caption reads: "A crowd watches the roadblocks burn, Beirut, 23 January 2007. Thousands of Lebanese demonstrators blocked main roads in the capital and around the country, burning rubble and tyres, protesting against the government." Picture Dina Debbas/IRIN

Class 2004

Bassem Chit has published important information on the class structure of Lebanon.

The chart shows how the class divide has grown since 1970.