The value of Lebanon’s currency has hit an all-time low on a regular basis for several years, recently reaching the unprecedented rate of 100,000 Lebanese pounds to $1 in mid-March 2023. The economy’s rapid deterioration since the onset of the financial crisis in 2019 has exposed long-term structural problems that had foreshadowed failure for decades, including steadily rising wealth inequality, extractive policies, pervasive exclusion and marginalization of vulnerable groups, and a troubling reliance on imports. It is now clearer than ever that Lebanon’s economy does not simply need to be rehabilitated to where it was before, but must be thoroughly reimagined.
On Thursday, April 6, 2023, TIMEP hosted a virtual panel discussion featuring Hussein Cheaito (TIMEP), Dr. Nada Mora (Lebanese University), Nabil Abdo (Oxfam), Sarah Saadoun (HRW), and moderated by Melanie Cremona on how Lebanon’s economy can be reinvigorated and reimagined to be meaningfully productive.
Panelists explored questions such as: How can Lebanon’s economy be rebuilt to allow sectors like manufacturing, the creative arts, entrepreneurship, and agriculture to thrive? How can we shift toward an export-based economy? How can the country’s corrupt banking system be restructured so that depositors are assured protection and can re-establish trust? How can we ensure that the country’s structural transformation will be inclusive, in addition to being productive?
Watch the discussion here:
Hussein CheaitoNonresident Fellow, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
Hussein Cheaito is a Nonresident Fellow at TIMEP focusing on governance and economic development in Lebanon. He is a Development Economist at The Policy Initiative, a Beirut-based research center that aims to empirically assess existing policies and generate viable alternatives. Hussein is interested in the economics of decentralization (specifically fiscal federalism), gender and queer economics, and development economics. He has also been examining the effectiveness of Lebanon’s local public finance system, the country’s remittances-dependent economic model, and the political economy of aid. He seeks to advocate for an economic research agenda that is heterodox, localized, and feminist in nature. Hussein graduated with an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Sussex as joint Saïd Foundation, Chevening, and British-Lebanese Association scholar in 2020. You can follow him on Twitter at @husseinch96.
Sarah SaadounSenior Researcher and Advocate, Economic Justice and Rights Division, Human Rights Watch
Sarah Saadoun is a senior researcher and advocate working on the economic drivers of human rights abuses. Her work investigates the impact of government policies and allocation of public resources on people’s ability to realize their rights, including to health, education, and social protection, and examines how corruption and moneyed interests capture public funds. In recent years, she has focused on IMF lending both as an opportunity to strengthen public oversight over government spending and as a driver of reforms that can exacerbate poverty and inequality. Her worked has focused on Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, United States, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and elsewhere.
Melanie CremonaPublic Policy Consultant
Melanie Cremona is a Lebanese Public Policy Consultant, Oxford graduate in public policy and Said Foundation Scholar with more than nine yeas of professional experience in the social sector. For six years she has worked as a United Nations consultant both in the field and in Geneva alongside decision makers and Nobel Laureates, including in Lebanon. Her fields of expertise range from capacity-building, education and governance to gender equality, humanitarian assistance, and media and telecommunication. Occasionally, she speaks for the media and on panels about different social issues and writes opinion pieces related to issues of social justice and change. Her policy interests lie at the intersection of the media and social change.
Dr. Nada MoraLecturer, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Lebanese University
Dr. Nada Mora is a Lecturer at the Lebanese University and a Senior Fellow at The Policy Initiative. She completed her S.B. in Economics and Ph.D. in Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has previously worked in central banking as an economist with the Bank of England, senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and principal financial economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. She has also taught at the American University of Beirut. Her primary research area is financial economics examining financial intermediation and financial crises mainly through the empirical commercial bank setting. Her work has been published in the Journal of Banking and Finance, the Journal of Money Credit and Banking, and the Journal of Finance.
Nabil AbdoSenior Policy Advisor – International Financial Institutions, Oxfam International
Nabil Abdo is Senior Policy Advisor for Oxfam International’s Washington DC Office. His work focuses on the IMF and inequality. Nabil is also a researcher and has focused on austerity policies globally and the MENA region, as well as unions and labor movements in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Lebanon, and the informal economy and fiscal and socioeconomic policies.