‘No free lunch’ for Lebanon any more, donor states warn

BEIRUT/PARIS: Western powers seeking to rescue Lebanon’s teetering economy have given the country’s leaders an ultimatum: there will be no bailout unless they form a credible government to overhaul a bankrupt state – and do it quickly.

France, the United States and other donors who repeatedly came to Lebanon’s aid since the 1975-90 civil war are losing patience with its politicians, many of them familiar faces in charge during the country’s descent into economic crisis.

Huge protests erupted against the ruling elite last year as people blamed them for looking after vested interests while national debts mounted. The pandemic further strained resources and a huge port blast in August destroyed large areas of Beirut.

As dollars run low, basic goods including some medicines are in short supply and more people in Lebanon are falling below the poverty line.

French President Emmanuel Macron, a natural ally given Lebanon is a former French colony, rushed to the city after the explosion and tried to convince politicians to introduce at least partial reforms to confront the emergency.

But rival factions are still mired in turf wars, and Lebanon has not formed a new government since the last one was brought down by the blast and its aftermath. As in previous deadlocks, each side blames the other.

In talks in Beirut last week, Patrick Durel, an adviser to Macron on the Middle East and North Africa, made clear that while Paris remains committed, “we will not bail them out unless there are reforms”, according to two sources who were present.  - Reuters