Lebanon — January 2006

Sociopolitical situation

During the year 2005, Lebanon witnessed a series of extraordinary events, the most important of which were the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14th, the withdrawal of Syrian troops on April 26th, and successive assassinations, bombs, and international resolutions, topped with parliamentary elections, that changed the balance of power in Lebanon. These events will most probably leave their mark on the year 2006 and possibly on many years to come.

Lebanon’s economic situation was inevitably affected by these unfortunate events, which caused deterioration and paralysis in most sectors.

Social services, particularly health care and education continue to rely mainly on private services along with very primitive and inadequate public institutions. Private hospitals, schools and universities provide services to those who can afford the expense, which is high as compared to the level of minimum wage.

Tourism, a major economic sector in Lebanon, continues to be affected by the political and security uncertainties that prevailed all through 2005. The number of incoming tourists to Lebanon, declined by 13.6% in 2005, as compared to 2004.

Religious situation

The Church in Lebanon is active and very much involved in political and social life. During the past year, politicians were aware of the fact that the consent of church leaders was necessary for any major political decision. This was manifested in the daily visits of foreign ambassadors and political leaders to the bishops and particularly to the head of the Maronite church, Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Cardinal Sfeir.

Church institutions — hospitals, schools, universities, orphanages and homes for the elderly — are the backbone of the social services sector in the country. These institutions had to expand in order to accommodate the ever increasing demand for their services; however, most of them suffer from financial difficulties due to unsettled debts incurred by the ministries of health and social services as well as parents who cannot afford to pay school fees.

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