Following the explosion at Beirut Port after a fire ignited a stockpile of industrial chemicals being stored at the port;
John Bambridge, Features & Analysis Editor at MEED, part of GlobalData, comments:
“The underlying reasons that conditions existed to trigger such a deadly blast will take months to establish and could have serious political and social consequences for the already unstable country. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and a spiraling economic crisis, the timing of the disaster could not have come at a worse time for Lebanon, and the government will have to act swiftly and transparently if it is to salvage any public confidence.
“In a country that has seen food prices leap by 80% in recent months, the devastation at Beirut Port, through which the vast majority of the country’s grain is imported, will severely disrupt food supply. The damage to Beirut’s infrastructure and to Lebanon’s economy will be extensive and long lasting.
“Substantial funding will be needed to rebuild Beirut’s port, however, Lebanon’s cash-starved government, which is already struggling to provide fuel to its power stations, does not have the financial strength to pay for the reconstruction.
“The country’s recovery depends on international support, but Beirut’s ability to raise finance and investment will be hampered by the region’s bitter political rivalries, as well as the country’s weak economic credentials. The disaster has increased pressure on the government to resolve its standoff with international development funds, such as the IMF, which demand financial sector reforms and drawdowns on the bank deposits as a precondition to economic support.
“It demands strong action by the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab, both at home and abroad to not only identify and remedy the causes of the tragedy, but also to address the country’s economic collapse. Failure to be seen to do so will reignite the public anger that triggered mass demonstrations against the government in October 2019, and will push the country even further into the abyss.”