Neolib Vultures Perch Over Lebanon
It is a classic case of adding insult to injury—or maybe usury and theft to injury. “Upcoming donor meetings to raise funds for rebuilding war-damaged Lebanon could be an opening for Western lenders to look for fresh commitments from Beirut to resume politically difficult economic reforms,” reports Reuters. “Western lenders are signaling they are willing to help with overall economic support if Lebanon agrees to adopt reforms, possibly seeking an International Monetary Fund program as a signal of its commitment to reform and to frame how donor money could be best used.”
Of course, we know what “reforms” mean in the context of IMF and World Bank “help,” the latter now headed up by the neocon Paul Wolfowitz—it means Structural Adjustment Policies, of SAPs, requiring nations to reduce spending on things such as health care, education, and other social programs in order to ensure debt repayment and economic restructuring. “Debt is an efficient tool. It ensures access to other peoples’ raw materials and infrastructure on the cheapest possible terms,” writes Susan George. It results in, as David C. Korten explains, a “race to the bottom.”
In rural areas, for instance the south of Lebanon, which took the brunt of the Israeli invasion, “75% of families whose primary provider works in agriculture are poor, and 40% of these are extremely poor. Two thirds of the extremely poor—around 165,000—live in rural areas and represent more than a quarter of the population in these areas,” explains Antoine Haddad for the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. “Lebanon’s experience in the last three decades shows that the improvement in the standard of living generally follows economic growth,” a situation that will become impossible if the ruling elite of Lebanon, primarily Christian and Sunni Muslim, accept IMF-World Bank loan sharking and extraction schemes. As the Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper, reported on October 21, 2003, “Lebanon’s poverty rate is among the highest in Western Asia, while its middle class is facing a serious threat of extinction,” a prospect greatly exacerbated by the Israeli invasion.
Prior to Israel’s mass murder rampage, Lebanon’s national debt stood at over 40 billion dollars, largely owed to the banksters and the IMF and World Bank, and economic “restructuring,” in the form of privatization and dismantling the country’s social sector was well underway. Of course, the pressure to “liberalize” (as in “neoliberalize”) further will be a temptation, as large sections of the country are in ruin, thanks to Israel, using U.S. supplied weapons.
“Before the recent fighting that killed 1,181 people and destroyed vital infrastructure, the IMF had warned of a potential Lebanon debt crisis. Its annual review of the Lebanese economy, issued in May, said it needed more than the expanding Middle Eastern funding and investments and without policy changes the debt ratio could rise steadily to over 210 percent of gross domestic product by 2011.”
“Some analysts question, however, why Lebanon would bow to Western pressures when the Arab world is willing to provide help without conditions attached,” Reuters continues. “Saudi Arabia already has pledged $1 billion for the war reconstruction effort, and Kuwait says it will donate $300 million. The United States on Monday announced $230 million in humanitarian, reconstruction and security assistance.”
In short, Lebanon may be in a position, unlike more than a few countries in South America and Africa, to resist the banksters and their neoliberal schemes to further impoverish the country and steal everything not nailed down.
“Samir Makdisi, a former Lebanese economy and trade minister and director of the Institute of Financial Economics at the American University of Beirut, noted that irrespective of who assists Lebanon, the government requires domestic consensus for any of its plans,” Reuters concludes. “Remember, Hizbollah is represented in the cabinet and in Parliament, and in Lebanon mutual agreements among the main players are normally sought on main issues.”
Of course, this is yet another reason, in addition to Israeli demands, to get rid of Hezbollah. Jason Kenney, a Canadian version of an American neocon, may compare Hezbollah to the Nazis, a silly and mindless comparison at best, however nothing the Americans or the Israelis do will get rid of Hezbollah, especially now with Israel threatening to re-invade.
If the Lebanese, at least the Shia, around 40 percent of the population, know anything it is that Hezbollah stands between them and decimation and humiliation at the hands of the Israelis, who have long coveted the southern part of their country. Hezbollah may, as well, fend off the international banksters, perched over the smoldering ruins of Lebanon like a gaggle of hungry vultures.
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