The Media Line led over twenty years ago in pioneering the American independent news agency in the Middle East, arguably the first in the region. We have always stayed true to our mission: to provide you with contextual sourced and trustworthy news. In an age of fake news masquerading as journalism, The Media Line plays a crucial role in providing fact-based news that deserves your support.

We're proud of the dozens of young students we've trained in our Press and Policy Student Program who will form the vanguard of the next generation of journalists to the benefit of countless millions of news readers.

Look out for exciting new additions as we enter 2022.

We thank our loyal readers and wish you all the happiest of holidays.
The Media Line

Non-profit news needs public support.
Please support us with your generous contributions:
Choosing Food or Fuel: Lebanese Scrape by in Inflation Nation
Queues at a refuelling station on July 2, 2021 in Beirut, Lebanon. Lebanon is going through the world's worst economic crisis. Lebanon defaulted on its debt last year, the currency has lost about 85% of its value, and poverty is devastating a country once considered a haven of prosperity in the region. (Marwan Tahtah/Getty Images).

Choosing Food or Fuel: Lebanese Scrape by in Inflation Nation

Hyperinflation leaves many skipping basic necessities

“We are cutting short on basics like meat and milk,” Roudy Hanna, a Lebanese resident of Beirut in his early 20s, told The Media Line. “Most medicines aren’t available anyway and you have to cut your grocery budget to buy the fuel needed to get to work.”

Hyperinflation is accelerating as Lebanon dives ever deeper into its economic crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The abyss that we have fallen into is the culmination of years of overspending on non-revenue generating projects, corruption and a total lack of planning,” Moustafa Assad, a Lebanese freelance researcher on banknote issuances, told The Media Line.

According to a recent report by the American University of Beirut’s Crisis Observatory, a family of five needs to spend at least 3.5 million Lebanese liras (approximately $2,300) on groceries each month, or more than five times the minimum wage of 675,000 liras (about $440), at the official exchange rate.

The free market rate, however, is something else. When Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on July 15 gave up on forming a government, the lira fell to 22,000 against the dollar on the black market. That meant the minimum wage dropped to the equivalent of $29 per month, the world’s lowest.

This comes as the government has slowly started to cut subsidies of basic goods from their current level of approximately $5 billion annually. It can no longer afford to spend just over 70% of its budget to help citizens buy the necessities of life, subsidies that ¾ of the population need to survive.

“We are seeing just the beginning of the inflation and we are surviving on the bare minimum of government spending,” Assad said. “Feeding the masses should be the only plan for any government these days. …

“The government’s actions tomorrow must focus only on sustaining the needy on the one hand, and on the other, to gather its strength and start to come up with plans that would put the brakes on the crumbling economy and try to maintain some form of stability in the markets,” he added.

“Sadly, it seems that we are learning to adapt; it’s what we’re good at,” Hanna said. “Young people are either looking to emigrate or to find remote jobs that pay in US dollars, even if the salary is $300.”

But the country also faces a shortage of American currency.

“Today, a normal [monthly] salary for an average employee in Lebanese pounds is actually worth nothing and is enough for less than a week’s worth of necessities,” Assad said.

The economic crisis will only worsen, he added.

“Today we stand at a cliff with zero money left and nothing in return. The prices will rise as we are witnessing now and peoples’ suffering will deepen,” he said. “Once the last penny is spent we will start seeing a catastrophe of a sizable magnitude.

“We may even get to a point where finding necessities will become a challenge,” Assad continued. “Next winter will be catastrophic and nobody is preparing for the cold, the food or other provisions.”

Mokhtar, a Lebanese activist who declined to give his last name, agrees with the grim forecast for Lebanon’s economy.

“It will get worse as the current political class has no plan other than kicking the can down the road. … They are wasting precious time awaiting a geopolitical deal that keeps them afloat,” he told The Media Line, referring to the deadlock over forming a government.

However, Mokhtar believes the price of food is less problematic than the cost of other staples.

“What worries me are the fuel shortages: gasoline for cars and diesel for generators, as well as an increase in the price of internet,” he said. “This will have a much greater impact than food prices.”

Bachar EL Halabi, Middle East and North Africa geopolitical analyst at ClipperData, NYC and a Lebanese political activist, says the government is borrowing close to $250 million from the World Bank to provide direct financial assistance to nearly 790,000 of the country’s poorest citizens over the course of 36 months.

This represents a modified form of the subsidy system for the purpose of securing electoral support, he argued.

“In essence, this is a new way of buying loyalties to ensure reelection in next year’s upcoming parliamentary elections,” EL Halabi told The Media Line. “Our blanket subsidy regime, which has been in place for decades, was a way to buy loyalties to remain in power and further enrich the rich.

“These allies of the sectarian warlords allowed the ruling sectarian elite to perpetuate its Ponzi scheme at the expense of the populous,” he added.

EL Halabi said the unaffordability of food could worsen Lebanon’s security situation, especially in the long term.

“More food insecurity means more instability … nowadays we see citizens taking things into their own hands by, for instance, stopping and hijacking trucks carrying what are possibly smuggled and subsidized products to Syria,” he said.

“However, the sectarian ruling elite continues to be the only side that retains and is able to exercise violence, whether through the official state security and military institutions or their sectarian militias, which means they will be able to control any flare-ups in the streets in the short to medium term,” EL Halabi said.

Give the Gift of Trusted News!

Dear friends,

The Media Line is always there to report to you the stories and issues of the Middle East – completely and in context: TML is the source you can trust.

Know The Media Line to Know The Middle East!

Please support our ad-free, nonprofit news agency. Our seasoned journalists reporting from the Middle East are working day and night during these challenging, yet defining times; and our student interns are honing their knowledge and skills, preparing to emerge as tomorrow’s journalists.

You rely on us and we’re relying on you! Make your online tax-deductible donation here and contact us regarding donations through appreciated stock, donor advised funds, qualifying IRA distributions and other charitable instruments.

Thank you for confidence in The Media Line.
 
Felice Friedson
Founder, President

Invest in the
Trusted Mideast
News source.
We are on the
front lines.

Personalize Your News
Upgrade your experience by choosing the categories that matter most to you.
Click on the icon to add the category to your Personalize news
Browse Categories and Topics
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.