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Overview

A timeline of Lebanon’s collapse

Soldiers with riot gear stand by during protests over the country’s economic collapse in Tripoli on Feb. 28, 2021. That night, security forces killed one person standing among demonstrators. (Credit: João Sousa/L’Orient Today)

BEIRUT — Lebanon has been mired since late 2019 in a deep economic and financial crisis, exacerbated by a political deadlock that intensified on Thursday when Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stepped down.

Dollar shortages

Anxiety at the lack of availability of dollars emerges on Sept. 29, 2019, when hundreds of people take to the streets of central Beirut to protest economic hardship.

Among the worst hit are petrol station owners, who need dollars to pay their suppliers. But media report that banks and exchange offices are limiting dollar sales for fear of running out.

Protests

Mass protests follow a government announcement on Oct. 17 of a planned tax on voice calls made over messaging services such as WhatsApp.

With the economy already in crisis, many see the tax as the last straw, with some demanding “the fall of the regime.” 

The government of Saad Hariri scraps the tax the same day. 

But protests continue over the next weeks, culminating in huge demonstrations calling for an overhaul of the ruling class in place for decades, and accused of corruption.

Hariri’s government resigns in late October under pressure from the street.

Default

Lebanon, whose debt burden is equivalent to nearly 170 percent of its gross domestic product, announces in March 2020 that it will default on its entire debt of a $1.2 billion eurobond.

The next month, after three nights of violent clashes in Tripoli, then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab says Lebanon will seek help from the International Monetary Fund after the government approves a plan to rescue the economy.

But negotiations with the IMF quickly go off the rails.

Catastrophic explosion

A massive explosion on Aug. 4 at Beirut’s port devastates entire quarters of the city, killing more than 200 people, injuring at least 6,500 others and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

The government says the blast appears to have been caused by a fire igniting tons of ammonium nitrate left unsecured in a warehouse for six years.

The blast inflames popular anger, which had been put on hold due to the pandemic.

Top officials are investigated over the explosion, but not a single politician was arrested. 

Political impasse

Diab announces the resignation of his government on Aug. 10, 2020, after less than seven months in power.

Mustapha Adib, a diplomat, is named as Lebanon’s new premier, vowing to make reforms and a deal with the IMF.

But Adib bows out after less than a month.

Hariri, already prime minister three times, is named on Oct. 22.

One of the worst crises

The authorities announce in February 2021 that the price of bread will be increased by around a fifth.

In June, the World Bank says Lebanon’s economic collapse is likely to rank among the world’s worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.

Later that month, protesters try to storm central bank offices in the northern city of Tripoli and Saida in the south, after the national currency plunges to a new record low on the black market.

Days later, the government hikes fuel prices by more than 30 percent as it reduces subsidies and customers queue for short supplies at service stations.

Lebanon’s medicine importers on July 4 say they have run out of key drugs, and warn of more shortages.

Hariri steps down

After nearly nine months of horsetrading, Hariri steps down on July 15, saying he was unable to form a government.



BEIRUT — Lebanon has been mired since late 2019 in a deep economic and financial crisis, exacerbated by a political deadlock that intensified on Thursday when Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stepped down.

Dollar shortages

Anxiety at the lack of availability of dollars emerges on Sept. 29, 2019, when hundreds of...