Lebanon — June 2006

Sociopolitical Situation

There has been little progress with national dialogue. For the most part, discussions among opposing factions have focused on stabilizing the political situation after last year’s upheavals. Palestinian militias and Hezbollah have not been disarmed. The security situation in the south is fragile; there have been several recent exchanges (28 May) between Israel and rocket-armed Hezbollah and Palestinian fighters.

Meanwhile, Palestinian refugees live in 12 overpopulated camps run by the United Nations. They face discrimination and are barred from most jobs in Lebanon. Lebanese officials have visited the camps in order to find solutions to the problem.

Earlier this year, the Cabinet called for economic reforms, included a tax hike and a controversial draft employment law that would allow the hiring of civil employees on a short-term, contractual basis. The proposed reforms, which the government is keen to implement in order to reassure donor countries of Lebanon’s interest in economic reform, would also cut pensions. The reform package has been met with widespread protests, which have called for the protection of citizens’ rights to medical care, salaries and pensions.

The Lebanese economy continues to suffer. Unemployment is around 20 percent. The external debt has reached $32.6 billion. About 70 percent of public revenue is spent servicing this debt instead of financing public services.

Religious Situation

Churches continue to provide social and health services to the needy, though they are facing budget problems of their own as payments from the Ministries of Health and Social Services have been delayed. Church officials continue to be active in the political discussions of the nation.

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