However, the people’s steadfastness today comes at a high price, particularly at the medical and socio-economic levels.
Since the popular uprising against the political system and in protest against the economic situation, and since the lockdown, companies have lost their business while employees have lost their jobs or have seen their salaries reduced. Legal workers, illegal workers and freelancers have lost their income. Around half the Lebanese people is now under the poverty line, with many families unable to afford food. Sickness and death threaten the unemployed and lower classes in the absence of financial support from the state and big businesses that have munched at both their savings and their rights.
The Lebanese Communist Part therefore believes that the State must assume its responsibilities by means of a government from outside the ruling parties and with extraordinary powers, including legislative powers. Such a state must prioritize the welfare of citizens, particularly poor citizens. It must also imitate the countries who have faced the socio-economical impact of the pandemic by immediately channeling funds into supporting the poor, the unemployed, those who have seen their salaries reduced, and companies that have lost a substantial part of their business. Actually, Lebanon is one of the few countries in the world that have not yet implemented such measures.
It is also obvious that all social and economic means must be put into action to save Lebanese souls from Corona and famine. This involves much more than 400,000 Lebanese Pounds for the poorest families, for a total of 50 million dollars. Quarantined citizens under the line of poverty need a three-month aid program within the frame of a larger socio-economic relief plan. Such a plan would tax the wealthy to help the poor, unemployed, employees, workers, daily workers, and self-employed. It would also include the following measures:
First, poor families, unemployed families, daily workers and self-employed, including drivers, receive a lump sum of one million Lebanese Pounds per month. This would cost an estimated 700 million dollars over three months.
Second, with regard to private companies who have lost more than 40% of its income (according to standards to be defined), the State pays employees 75% of their salary, up to a limit of 2 million Lebanese Pounds, while the company pledges to cover the balance. Estimates regarding such companies show that this measure would cost up to 350 million dollars over three months.
Third, the States will ensure that all public hospital and non-governmental health institutions are properly equipped with a boost of 150 million dollars over three months, for a total of 1.2 billion dollars. This would be 3% of the GDP (which is expected to decrease by 25% in 2020) and is much less than the percentage allocated in other countries (USA 9%, Denmark 13%). This is also necessary from a political and humanitarian point of view – prioritizing citizens’ welfare is certainly worth more than the present government’s allocation of only 50 million dollars.
The Lebanese Communist Party emphasizes the State’s pivotal role in the response to the Corona crisis. Whether in Lebanon or in the world, the neoliberal economic pattern of the past four decades has failed to achieve community contracting, increased the class gap and weakened the food, health and education systems that are the lifeline of society.
The Party requests the immediate implementation of the relief program as a first and necessary step within the frame of an economic plan that aims to channel human and humanitarian resources into productive sectors, particularly the industrial and agricultural sectors. This would guarantee a minimum productive capacity and self-sufficiency with regard to many agricultural and food industry products that Lebanon is lacking.
The Party also warns that this insufficiency will grow as Lebanon’s importing power decreases with the devaluation of the national currency and as many countries cut down or even bring to a halt their food exports because of the Corona crisis. Food security should therefore be a top priority in the context of this worldwide pandemic.
Beirut on 9/4/2020
Political Bureau of the Lebanese Communist Party