Bkerke (AsiaNews) - In the middle of a regional crisis
due to the Syrian conflict, burdened by its own political and security
challenges, Lebanon faces even worse problems, a Greek-style economic meltdown
by 2016, Maronite bishops said in an appeal to government leaders and the population
that includes an analysis of the country's economic situation that does not
seem to get the attention it needs.
The statement, issued on 1 August, warns against the
state's "economic collapse" by 2016, similar to what is occurring in Greece and
Italy as well as in some Asian and Latin American nations whose consequences
could be very serious.
As an appeal, the statement by Maronite bishops is
especially important. It is a special declaration that the Church hopes will be
The fact that the Catholic Church is behind the
economic analysis is not unimportant. Citing John Paul Ii and Redemptor Hominis, the statement says
that "man is the way for the Church" and that everything that touches him, in
this case his material wellbeing and social situation, does not leave the Church
Some might complain about such a stark warning, which
will undoubtedly draw the attention of investors, but the latter are not asleep
and it is appropriate to recognise that "to govern is to foresee."
Lebanon's dual problem
The statement noted that the country is facing two
major socio-economic problems, an energy crisis and the debt problem.
The first is not specific to Lebanon, but affects the
entire world, and is caused by unstable oil prices. This is affecting the
country's electrical supplies and the competitiveness of its manufacturing,
agriculture and service sector. Natural and man-made disasters are an
additional challenge. Output flows are also affected by regional conflicts.
The chronic deficit problem at Electricité du Liban
(EDL) represents 65 per cent of the country's annual deficit.
However, Lebanon's main problem is the national debt
and the need to service it. This cuts into the amount of funds available for
Some experts are saying that by 2016 the public debt
could reach US$ 80 billion. Lebanon would face major financial difficulties
given the ratio between servicing the debt and gross domestic production (GDP).
The bishops' appeal speaks of a "collapse" similar to that
of nations richer than Lebanon, like Italy and Greece.
To avoid that danger, the statement calls for a number
of measures, such as the creation of a special fund to manage the public debt, stronger
ties between the public and the private sectors, as well as better tax and fee
the same time, the appeal urges the banking sector, whose strength is a matter
of national pride, to remain vigilant and rational in extending credit to the
state, so as not to undermine personal savings, and avoid the sovereign debt
crisis that affects some Asian and Latin American nations.