The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty warned that Lebanon risked becoming a failed state and lambasted a “scandalous level of inequality” as he wrapped up a twelve-day tour of the country.

“Lebanon is not yet a bankrupt state, but it is a bankrupt state, with a bankrupt government for its people,” Olivier De Schutter said at a press conference in Beirut.

Mr De Schutter was finishing a 12-day trip during which he met nine ministers, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and impoverished communities across the country. A severe economic crisis and the collapse of the local currency have plunged a large part of the country’s population into poverty. He took advantage of his departure press conference to criticize the government for its inability to implement significant reforms in the face of the “four converging crises”.

“The government’s inaction in the face of this unprecedented crisis has inflicted great hardship on the population, in particular children, women, stateless and undocumented migrants and already marginalized people with disabilities,” he added. .

De Schutter, who was appointed by the UN Secretary-General last year, will report on his findings to the UN Human Rights Council in June. He condemned the country’s political establishment and said he did not believe the government was serious about the issue.

“The lack of accountability at the highest levels of political leadership is astonishing. As I met dedicated officials at lower levels of government, I was shocked at the disconnect between the political establishment and the reality of those living in poverty on the ground, ”he said.

“These people need credible solutions today, and I am deeply concerned that the government is not taking their plight seriously. “

He particularly drew attention to Lebanon’s failing tax and banking systems, linking them directly to the country’s growing levels of inequality.

“Inequalities have remained at unacceptable levels for years in Lebanon. Even before the crisis, the richest 10 percent received five times as much income as the poorest 50 percent. This outrageous level of inequality is reinforced by a tax system that rewards the banking sector, encourages tax evasion and concentrates wealth in the hands of the few. In the meantime, the population is subject to regressive taxes which hit the poorest the most ”, he declared.

“This is a man-made disaster that took a long time to prepare. “

A study released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in August found that around 78 percent of the Lebanese population was now living in poverty in March 2021. The World Bank described the crisis in Lebanon as one of the worst in history.

Update: November 12, 2021 11:43 am

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