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One year ago, a massive blast destroyed part of the city of Beirut and levelled its port facilities.
Since then, Beirut has cleaned up much of the debris field extant in the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion which claimed 218 lives, injured 6,500, and the country has suffered widespread political and economic instability.
Not much rebuilding has occurred within the blast zone, but repairs to buildings are progressing as homeowners and business owners can afford to do so with their own limited funds. Very minimal Lebanese government assistance has been made available to those affected by the disaster.
One bright spot is that Lebanon got a new Prime Minister last week — which means that if reconstruction can be directly and efficiently stimulated at this important moment — that in itself will assist political stability in the country.
Lebanon: Billionaire Najib Mikati named new prime minister-designate (Al Jazeera)
Timing is Everything
Especially where disasters are concerned — whether natural or human-caused — there exists a short window of opportunity where assistance can (when it arrives on time) act as an economic multiplier in the local economy, compared to the same amount of assistance (monetary value) arriving later in the crisis which isn’t appreciated as much as early aid.
Now that most of the rubble has been cleared, now that inspection of the site is no longer required by investigators, now that the country has appointed a new Prime Minister (who is also a former Lebanese Prime Minister) now is the time for the UK to lead Western nations in sending exactly the kind of aid that Beirut needs, in a timely fashion, to help the long-suffering Lebanese people rebuild their damaged city and its demolished port facilities.
Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way!
Sending ‘too little, too late’ isn’t the way a Top Ten country should comport itself at any time — let alone when now is the optimum time to respond. For if such countries don’t lead at troubled times, they don’t deserve their high place in the world.
To whom much is given, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48)
What Should the UK do?
Lead. Plain and simple.
UK leaders must respond to the newly changed political situation in Lebanon as a Top Ten economy should.
This could be as simple as sending one aid ship per week to Lebanon for the next 12-months.
What should the first shipment include? Obviously, the world is still in the middle of a pandemic, and therefore, PPE and COVAX vaccines should be made available to the people of Lebanon as they’re dealing with the same COVID-19 (and variants) as everyone else, and they’re still dealing with the aftermath of an apocalyptic explosion.
So, the next time you catch yourself bemoaning having to wear a mask in public, remind yourself that Lebanese people had half of their country’s most important city blown up a year ago, it’s still blown up, and they must still wear masks in public. Now that’s something to complain about! Having to wear a mask to the office isn’t.
The second shipment might need to be drinking water, or fuel, or maybe some excavating equipment so that Beirut workers can do some quick repair work on its port facilities to ensure foreign aid arriving in ships can be efficiently unloaded and goods directed to the appropriate organizations.
Whatever the people of Beirut need on a week-to-week basis; It should be our sincere pleasure to send it.
How to Pay for It
There’s no need for the UK government to consider raising taxes to pay for weekly aid shipments to Beirut for the next year as the government has already set aside .7% of GDP to spend on its annual Foreign Aid budget.
The UK can spend that .7% of GDP anywhere in the world and it makes sense to help Lebanon at this pivotal time and the disaster in Beirut should become the UK government’s highest foreign aid priority over the next 12-months.
Instead of the risk attached to sending huge sums of money as foreign aid that could be diverted to less worthy causes (it happens, sometimes, in politically unstable countries) it’s better to send useful goods to Beirut by ship, every week, thereby employing the UK foreign aid budget in a way that directly helps Beirut residents cope with the devastation they’re experiencing and stimulates rebuilding of the heavily damaged port and city.
Let’s hope that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson sees the wisdom of sending concrete aid, in a timely fashion, to the long-suffering people of Lebanon, in keeping with the UK’s high moral standing and privileged position in the world.
Written by John Brian Shannon