Lebanon needs “six to seven years” to emerge from the crisis it is currently in, the country’s president has said.
In a televised interview on Friday, Michel Aoun said Lebanon had reached this point as a result of “misdeeds, theft, corruption, and failures by the system” and that a much-needed “intellectual and practical” change would surely be implemented to correct it.
“What the Lebanese people are suffering and living today is a result of deeds by those in power in the past who were entrusted with citizen’s lives,” he reiterated in a tweet.
Lebanon is in the third year of an economic meltdown that began in 2019 when the financial system collapsed under the weight of huge state debt and lack of foreign currency – the result of decades of corruption, economic mismanagement, and unsustainable financing.
Aoun’s comments came just days after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made scathing comments on the causes of Lebanon’s financial collapse in a leaked video circulated on social media.
“As far as I understand what has happened in Lebanon is that Lebanon was using something similar to a Ponzi scheme… which means that together with corruption and other, probably, forms of stealing, the financial system has collapsed,” Guterres said in the video.
Many other critics of the Lebanese authorities have compared the financial system to a Ponzi scheme, depending on fresh borrowing to pay back existing debt. The central bank has denied this.
The crash has caused the Lebanese pound to lose more than 90 percent of its value and savers to be frozen out of their deposits in the paralysed banking system.
Mike Azar, an expert on the Lebanese financial system, said Guterres had expressed similar views at another closed-door gathering between the UN chief and members of Lebanese civil society on Tuesday.
Asked by Reuters news agency about the remarks, a UN spokesperson said the secretary-general’s views on the financial crisis were “more fully expressed” at a news conference at the end of his visit.
At that news conference, Guterres said Lebanese leaders need to convince the international community to support Lebanon by implementing reforms “in relation to the economic, the social and the political life of the country,” and by adopting a “credible economic recovery plan” for talks for an IMF support programme.