IT is very unlikely that the new government, led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, an engineering professor and former education minister, will be able to solve Lebanon's gargantuan problems.

Power still rests with a handful sectarian leaders, whom the protesters have been trying to force out. The New Lebanon is much like the Old one, led by a deeply entrenched political class that is adept at survival.

The new cabinet faces multiple crises that could lead to economic and political collapse : The public debt stands at $86 billion, or more than 150 percent of gross domestic product; the government is failing to provide basic services, like -

Electricity, water and garbage collection; foreign currency has dried up; and the Lebanese pound, which has been pegged to the dollar since 1997, has lost  more than 60 percent of its value on the black market in recent weeks.

In one of the cabinet's first steps, the newly appointed finance minister said he would try to secure $4 to $5 billion in loans from international donors to help pay for imports of fuel, wheat and medicine.

So far, Lebanon's traditional backers - Europe and Arab states in the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have shied away from providing new loans before the government undertakes significant reforms, such as reducing the public payroll and combating corruption and tax evasion.

To enact lasting change, Lebanon's protesters must uproot the sectarian system entirely. That requires change across multiple levels of society - to be won through municipal elections, new labor unions and professional associations, an independent judiciary, and a strong central government that can provide the most basic services to its people.

Without this deep change, Lebanon faces chaos - and devastating economic and social collapse.

The World Students Society thanks author Mohammad Bazzi.


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