In Lebanon, the sinking of the middle class

A queue in front of an exchange office in Beirut, June 17.

In the spans of the Fahad supermarket in Furn Al-Chebbak, a middle-class Christian neighborhood in Beirut, customers push their cart while dragging their feet. They grab a product, turn pale at the price, put it down with an air of disappointment, and leave to wander between the shelves. “Shopping became my obsession”, says Gloria, a sixty-something woman in jeans and a T-shirt, who lives on the savings of her engineer husband, who died a few years ago. “We Lebanese were used to a certain comfort in life. But today, with the crisis, we can no longer buy anything. “Near East Switzerland”, the nickname we used to give our country, will become a new Afghanistan ”, she adds before going to inspect the prices of vegetables.

The financial cataclysm that struck Lebanon in the spring destroyed the purchasing power of the population. The Lebanese, who no longer had access to their savings in dollars since the fall of 2019, following the restrictions imposed by the banks, in response to the liquidity crisis, have had to deal with, since June, two additional scourges: the rapid collapse of the national currency, which in recent days has fluctuated on the black market between 7,500 and 9,500 pounds for 1 dollar, while the official rate is 1,500; and the vertiginous rise in the price of basic foodstuffs, multiplied by two or three, like the kilo of beef, today billed 50,000 pounds, against 18,000 two months earlier.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Lebanon plunged into the abyss

This double phenomenon, depreciation and hyperinflation, is turning the socio-economic profile of Lebanon upside down. Traditionally considered as a country with higher middle income, it suddenly finds itself demoted to the rank of low income states. At the rate of 10,000 pounds for 1 dollar, which was practically reached last week, the Lebanese minimum wage, fixed at 675,000 pounds per month, or 450 dollars (393 euros) officially, was worth only 67 dollars (58 euros ), or the level of the minimum wage… in Afghanistan.

This downgrading affects all social categories, but it is particularly visible among the middle class, the base of the country, projected in a process of devastating impoverishment. ” This is unheard of, says Talal Salman, 82, former director of the late daily As-safir and “memory” of Lebanon. During the civil war [1975-1990], money was flowing, because each faction had its foreign donor. Today, the country is suffocating. The middle class is disappearing. Our past, however painful, makes us dream about what awaits us. “

You have 74.49% of this article to read. The suite is reserved for subscribers.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here