At the end of a 12-day visit to Lebanon, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, announced on Friday, November 12, “Inaction” Leaders face rapid poverty in society.
You characterize Lebanon’s plunge as a “fabricated crisis.” Can a crash be prevented?
The financial crisis was the result of the collapse of the “Ponzi scheme”, leading to a sharp depreciation of the Lebanese pound, which is preventable.But Lebanon is also facing three other crises, which obviously affect its ability to respond: the large number of Syrian refugees [depuis 2011], Covid-19 crisis and Beirut port explosion [en août 2020]In addition, the political response was not satisfactory.During my meetings with the ministers, I noticed that, in general, the response was to ask for more support from the international community and sometimes to identify Syrian refugees. [1,5 million, soit 25 % de la population] Convenient scapegoat. However, there is an urgent need to mobilize resources within Lebanon: the country can improve taxation and financing of public services. Structural reforms will enable the country to rebound and reduce its dependence on international aid.
Did the leaders not take measures to deal with the current collapse?
I believe they underestimated the feeling of abandonment of the people, and underestimated the urgency of the international community awaiting reform. The current government was not established until September.Judge Bitar’s investigation paralyzed him [entravée par de multiples forces politiques, Hezbollah en tête] Port bombings and Gulf crisis [fin octobre, l’Arabie saoudite a retiré son ambassadeur et expulsé le représentant libanais]. My impression is that many ministers are working on their own roads-to use the swimming metaphor-rather than as a team.We need a functioning government to carry out reforms without waiting for elections [prévues en 2022] Or financial support from the International Monetary Fund.
You said to improve taxation, but the country does not have a fair taxation system, and the resistance to taxation is pervasive…
We must change the way people depend on the state. Lebanon does not have a welfare state system, and the ratio of tax revenue to GDP is very low compared with similar countries. The first reform must be a tax reform: a larger share of the country’s public revenue comes from direct taxes on wealth and companies, and a proportional reduction in the share of indirect taxes (such as value-added tax) is a problem. We need a more progressive tax system.
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