The Telegraph, 16 June 2021
Lebanon's economic collapse is spiralling out of control - and no one is safe
At the cocktail bar on my block in Gemmayze – once the heart of Beirut’s pumping nightlife scene – barkeeper Nino fixes a decent Sazerac but says he won’t be able to keep making them for much longer.
The drink, priced at something like $27 at Lebanon’s official exchange rate, now costs me about $2.70 in lira bought on the “parallel market”.
An acute shortage of foreign currency in a country where 80 per cent of goods are imported has seen even licensed money exchange houses abandon the official rate of 1,515 lira to the dollar. Inflation is rampant and is cutting into every aspect of life.
As another power cut leaves us sitting in darkness alleviated only by the light of our smartphones, Nino says he isn’t sure he can stay in business.
The worsening inequality that Lebanon’s economic collapse has produced is an increasingly discomfiting facet of life here in this Mediterranean nation, previously famed for the extravagant lifestyle of its elite.
But there are signs that it is gradually encroaching on our privileged bubble. Now, even if one has money, some goods are in short supply.
Friends and colleagues returning from overseas are now asked to bring back scarce medicines in their luggage. Petrol often runs out. Power cuts have become more frequent.
Officially over half the population now lives beyond the national poverty line, though this figure is worsening quickly.
The World Bank warned this month that Lebanon was suffering one of the most severe crises globally since the mid-nineteenth century, with GDP having contracted by around 40 percent.
As I read this and considered the parallel between Lebanon’s situation and that of Venezuela, I realized that I have no idea how much Argentina’s GDP has contracted. Anybody?