Lebanon continues to struggle with seemingly endless crises, presidential and waste management included, leading to a significant drop from the 30th position in 2014 to the 52nd in 2015 in both health and primary education according to the most recent Global Competitiveness Report of 2016.
Out of 138 countries included in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Report, released this week, the country came out at the 101st spot, ahead of only three Arab countries, Egypt (115), Mauritania (137) and Yemen (138).
The Bader Young Entrepreneurs Program, the group in charge of listing Lebanon in the WEF’s report, lamented the results, asking: “Isn’t it catastrophic to see the ranking of Lebanon in health and primary education going from 30 in 2014 to 52 in 2015?”
“Lebanon [which] has always been considered a reference in higher education and training in the region is down to position 66 this year. It is now clear that our political and economic deadlocks are starting to structurally impact our society and the health of our new generations.”
Our debt is also a matter of great concern with the debt-to-GDP ratio –an indication of the ability of a country to pay back its debts without incurring further liabilities– rising.
According to the Global Competitive Survey Lebanon came out third after Japan and Greece with a 139.1% debt-to-GDP ratio.
In July, Moody’s rating agency warned of the growing public debt in Lebanon as a major source of credit risk for Lebanese banks. In fact almost all international rating agencies have repeatedly warned that Lebanese banks are becoming more vulnerable to unfavorable conditions.
Successive governments continue to tap into the local market and Lebanese banks to finance the public debt, which is now estimated at over $71 billion. As for the most problematic factors causing the decline? Well, corruption comes at number one, followed by government instability, inadequate supply of infrastructure, inefficient government bureaucracy, and policy instability among other things.
These reports come at a time when Lebanon’s Health Ministry announced that starting October 1st, every Lebanese citizen above 64 years of age will be entitled to 100% medical coverage, allocating $11.3 million from the annual budget for said plan. But no details have yet emerged on how the new health scheme will survive throughout the years in light of the rising debt and the country’s ailing public hospitals that struggle to pay their staff, and of course the rise in pollution.
1,816 deaths related to air pollution were registered in Lebanon in 2013 alone according to The World Bank, prior to the garbage crisis of 2015-2016, which saw a spike in open waste incineration. New studies by the American University of Beirut predict a much worse outcome as indicated in the below report, which unfortunately includes a widely shared yet false Numbeo “study”. (Where are the news editors?)
Whether the health scheme is viable or not is a matter that remains to be seen, as are the plans announced by the Ministry of Education that aim to incorporate more Syrian children into the school system as well as open 60 schools for children with special needs. Are these schemes sustainable in light of rampant corruption? Is it a matter pertaining to country’s growing reliance on international donors? Only time will tell.