| 18 May 2024, Saturday |

French envoy slams Lebanon PM for shifting blame on economic collapse

The French Ambassador criticized Lebanon’s Prime Minister for claiming the country was under siege, and blamed the country’s economic downfall on years of “mismanagement and passivity” by Lebanese officials.

Lebanon’s situation has been dubbed “one of the worst depressions in modern history” by the World Bank. More than half of the population has been pushed into poverty as the currency has lost more than 90% of its value.

On Tuesday, French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo responded to a speech by caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who informed envoys that the country had been placed under siege and warned of impending societal unrest.

In a recording of her comments circulated by the French embassy on Wednesday, Grillo blamed Lebanon’s “political class” for the downfall.

“But what is frightening Mr. Prime Minister, is that today this brutal collapse … is the deliberate result of mismanagement and inactivity for years,” she said.

“It is not the result of an external siege. It is the result of your own responsibilities, all of you, for years, of the political class. This is the reality.”

Diab has been serving in a caretaker capacity since resigning in the wake of the catastrophic Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion. Since then, fractious sectarian politicians have been unable to agree on a new government.

Donors have long called for reforms to combat state corruption and waste, which are largely regarded as the core causes of the crisis.

Diab had highlighted repeated requests for help to be subject to reform, but claimed that “the siege imposed” on Lebanon was having little effect on the corrupt – an apparent reference to politicians.

He claimed the Lebanese were losing patience and that “tying Lebanon’s support to the establishment of a new government has become a threat to the lives of the Lebanese and to the Lebanese entity,” adding that the country was on the verge of a social explosion.

Grillo noted that France, with the backing of other powers, had organized two conferences on Lebanon since the Aug. 4 explosion and was working on a third.

Though Diab’s government was serving in a caretaker capacity, she said it could take steps including implementing a social safety net with World Bank financing.

  • Reuters