As Lebanon marks the seven-month anniversary of the catastrophic blast at the Beirut port last August 4, the country appears to be in a rapidly accelerating free fall. Lebanon’s currency continues to plummet in value, hitting new lows this week. With foreign exchange reserves falling, Lebanese officials have raised fresh concerns that the country may soon not be able to import key necessities such as food and fuel. Meanwhile, despite a COVID pandemic surge, angry Lebanese have taken to the streets across the country, protesting the rapidly deteriorating economic and social conditions. At the same time, efforts to form a new cabinet following the government’s collapse last August remain stalemated.
Over two months later, there are still more questions than answers regarding the Beirut explosion that killed over 200 people and damaged large swaths of Lebanon’s capital city. Meanwhile, the fallout from the explosion has forced the resignation of Lebanon’s government, which had already been under fire after months of protests over corruption and a deteriorating economy. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Osama Gharizi look at where the blast investigation stands, what’s holding up the formation of a new government, and what a new outbreak of COVID-19 means for Lebanon.
More than two months after a massive explosion rocked Beirut, the country’s twin political and economic crises continue to spiral while a COVID crisis descends upon the Mediterranean nation. International aid for repairing billions in damage and bolstering Lebanon’s flailing economy is largely contingent on sweeping political reforms that have yet to materialize. After another Lebanese prime minister resigned last month, President Michel Aoun has called for consultations next week with members of parliament to name a new premier. This comes days before the October 17 anniversary of mass protests that broke out last year, which began as demonstrations against unpopular taxes but rapidly expanded to calls for an overhaul of the country’s sectarian-based political system.