More than 6 in 10 Lebanese want to leave Lebanon permanently as crises continue

Beirut port blast, daily power cuts and a health system in meltdown has sparked a brain drain

Lebanese men drive bikes past burning tyres set up by protesters to block a road in the capital Beirut on November 29. AFP
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Sixty-three per cent of Lebanese people want to leave the country permanently, a survey has found, as the nation's economy continues to spiral.

The latest results come two years after the country entered a financial meltdown. Prices of basic goods have skyrocketed while the value of local currency has plummeted by more than 90 per cent since 2019.

The Lebanese pound dropped against the dollar last week to about 25,000, from a peg in 2019 of 1,500.

The Gallup survey of 1,000 Lebanese adults conducted in August and released on Thursday showed Canada and Germany are the most desirable destinations for those wishing to leave — 28 per cent would like to go to Canada while 19 per cent would like to move to Germany.

The figures are a huge increase from the between 19-32 per cent who stated a desire to emigrate over the 12 years since Gallup began asking the question.

An explosion that killed more than 200 people last year, daily power cuts and a health system in meltdown caused by Covid-19 has sparked a brain drain as people look for better prospects abroad.

There has been little progress since Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government was formed in September after more than a year of political deadlock that compounded the crisis.

Mr Mikati's government has been deadlocked since a row over the investigation into the Beirut port blast in August 2020 flared during a Cabinet meeting on October 12. The Cabinet has not met since.

Subsidies have been cut back on almost all goods including fuel and medicine, pushing up prices as basic services such as health care crumble.

The survey found 85 per cent of people said they are finding it “difficult” or “very difficult” to survive on their income, including 62 per cent who say it is “very difficult”. The proportion of those finding it very difficult has almost doubled, compared to 32 per cent in 2019.

The UN's poverty envoy last month criticised Lebanon's politicians for failing the people. More than 80 per cent of the population is estimated to be living below the poverty line.

“I saw scenes in Lebanon that I never imagined I would see in a middle-income country,” Olivier De Schutter, the UN's special rapporteur on extreme poverty, said.

“The government's inaction in the face of this unprecedented crisis has inflicted great misery on the population.”

The country's issues are also creating a mental health crisis as more than half of people surveyed say they are experiencing great sadness (56 per cent).

Updated: December 02, 2021, 6:31 PM
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