As I was reading about that Saudi prince who got nabbed in Lebanon for packing two tons of pep pills onto his private jet, I realized that it had been a while since I heard anything about Beirut’s “You Stink” protests, over the Lebanese government’s inability to even handle trash collection. Well, there’s a reason for that;
the garbage problem was solved, finally, in early September when the government designated new landfills and devolved authority for managing trash collection to municipal governments hahaha just kidding, the Lebanese government claimed that the problem was solved in early September but here’s video of a river of trash flowing down a flooded Beirut street a couple of days ago:
If the Lebanese government still hasn’t figured out how to collect its country’s trash, then it’s got no hope of dealing with more challenging problems, like the fact that the country’s power grid doesn’t work and really hasn’t worked for a couple of decades now:
Four decades ago, Lebanon used to export power to its larger neighbor Syria. Now it barely generates enough electricity to keep street lamps on at night.
The situation is so bad that even people fleeing the conflict in Syria have been heard to complain.
Outages have plagued Lebanon since its own 1975-1990 civil war and the power crisis is a legacy of that conflict, with the country now shackled by paralysis in government and widely perceived corruption that has put a brake on development.
“The situation (with electricity) is not bearable for the Lebanese people any more,” said Mustafa Baalbaki, the creator of a phone app, Beirut Electricity, which tracks outages and is used by 15,000 people daily.
Yes, it’s so bad that somebody created an app to track power outages. Depending on where you live in Lebanon you’re either dealing with small daily outages or small daily windows where the power is actually on (people turn to diesel generators when the main grid is off). And the problem is really with insufficient power generation, so it’s not like you can just flip a switch or fix a transformer; somebody (which in most other countries would be “the government,” but in Lebanon is the special ¯\_(シ)_/¯ Commission) needs to invest in new power plants. The Lebanese government put together a 15 year plan in 2010 that promised to “eventually” see 24 hour electricity throughout the entire country, but given that this is the same government that can’t even pick a president for itself at the moment (and maybe shouldn’t, given that the parliament is now two years overdue for its own elections and it’s the parliament that elects the president), I don’t think expectations are running too high at the moment.
Protests in Beirut are starting to really turn violent, with protesters throwing rocks at police and politicians and police tossing back tear gas in response. And while much of Lebanon’s political dysfunction is inextricably tied up in the breakdown of any political order in Syria, it’s also become a circular problem, where the Syrian war feeds Lebanese chaos, which leaves Lebanon more vulnerable to the Syrian war, which feeds more Lebanese chaos, and so on in perpetuity. Under the circumstances, it’s actually fairly remarkable that the country has managed to take in over a million Syrian refugees without coming apart altogether (although there are definite problems there as well).
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