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Crisis-Hit Lebanon 'Days Away From Social Explosion'

Financial meltdown is among the worst since the mid-1800s, World Bank warns
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2021 8:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – The pandemic has brought tough times to many countries. In Lebanon, it has only deepened one of the worst financial and economic crises ever seen. The World Bank warned last month that the Lebanon crisis could rank among the worst ten—and possibly the worst three—worldwide since the 1850s, with living standards plummeting along with the country's currency. The country's GDP fell from around $55 billion in 2018 to $33 billion last year and the country's currency, the Lebanese pound, has lost more than 90% of its value over the last 18 months, wiping out savings and drastically shrinking pensions, the New York Times reports. Unemployment has soared and electricity blackouts are common, along with food and medicine shortages and hours-long lineups for gas. Hyperinflation has caused food prices to triple over the last few months, per Al Jazeera.

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"It is getting worse, and we can’t do anything about it," 23-year-old Lynn Husami tells the Times, recalling a four-hour wait to fill up her car. "I don’t know how we can fix all of this." The crisis—blamed on corruption and unsustainable government policies—was worsened by the Beirut port explosion that killed around 200 people last year. Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his entire Cabinet resigned after the August disaster—but Diab remained in a caretaker capacity and the country's politicians have been unable to agree on a new government, leaving decision-making in limbo. He pleaded for help from the international community Tuesday, warning that the "demise of Lebanon" could be at hand, reports Reuters. "Lebanon is a few days away from the social explosion," he told diplomats in Beirut. "The Lebanese are facing this dark fate alone." (Read more Lebanon stories.)

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