Since the birth of greater Lebanon under the French Mandate in the year 1920, Lebanon has been witnessing several forums of fluctuations that are normally found in the life of any nation.
If we take a broader look, we realize that Lebanon’s political life is somehow similar to the economic cycle, or what is also known as the business cycle. Every time Lebanon reaches its peak in stability and prosperity, it falls again.
French economist Clement Juglar, one of the pioneers in analyzing the economic cycle, stated that each cycle ranges between seven to 11 years. Years later, an economist Joseph Schumpeter, one of the world’s greatest intellectuals, added to Juglar’s cycle four stages in which each cycle is supposed to experience.
Schumpeter identified the four stages as follows: the expansion phase, which is mainly described as growth; the crisis phase (known as the depression phase), when stock exchanges fall and several bankruptcies of firms happen; The recession phase, which is a contraction period characterized by a slowdown of activities; and the recovery phase, when the rate of activities slowly returns to normal.
Accordingly, the first political cycle started with the expansion phase of Lebanon after the birth of the nation in 1920, its independency in 1943 and the election of the first president after independency, Bechara El-Khoury. This was followed by a decline in the Lebanese political life during the period of Camille Chamoun’s presidency. The crisis was pictured by a revolt when Chamoun reached the U.S. for help, and then the arrival of U.S. military forces in Lebanon. After that, high demands requesting the resignation of Chamoun appeared, which rendered the phase one of recession. Finally came the recovery phase, which started with the election of Fouad Chehab as a president in 1958.
After the election of Chehab the second cycle was launched. The cycle’s expansion phase was in the Chehabism era when Lebanon experienced a peaceful period accompanied with a high rate of tourism and an improvement in the banking sector. After that a crisis, started by the Civil War, took place between 1975 and 1989, followed by the Israeli invasion in 1982 and the “War of Camps” between 1985 and 1989.
Last but not least, the end of the war in 1989 marked the recession phase of this era. However, the end of this cycle was labeled with the Taif Accord in 1989 which is known to be an agreement that put national unity as a priority with the aim of reaching Lebanese political reconciliation.
The beginning of the Lebanese third cycle was in the year 1992 when Rafik Hariri was named as Lebanse premier for the first time.
The Harirism era is considered to be Lebanon’s resurgence. In 1994, he launched a holistic plan to rebuild Beirut Central District and his plan helped improve the Lebanese economic and societal life. The crisis of this cycle took place in 2005 with his assassination. After that, the recession phase took place when more than a million Lebanese citizens demonstrated in the streets, which resulted in the resignation of the government. The end of this cycle witnessed the election of Michel Suleiman as president.
Since the end of the third cycle, Lebanon didn’t experience the beginning of another cycle. Although, four different governments were elected during this period, each was disabled for a certain period of time.
For instance, from the first government led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri (2009) up until the government led by Prime Minister Tammam Salam (2014), with one in between headed by Najib Mikati (2011), each was inactivate for at least two months.
However, the immobilization in Lebanon didn’t stop here, because it manifested for over 30 months without a president.
At the end of this period with a power vacuum, Lebanon finally had the chance to see the birth of a new era in which each Lebanese citizens put high hopes.
From there, the expansion period started on Oct. 31, 2016, with the election of Michel Aoun as president, followed by the appointment of Saad Hariri as prime minister on the Nov. 3, 2016, and subsequently the formation of a national unity government.
Consequently, since last week, specifically Nov. 4, 2017, and upon the resignation of Hariri as prime minister, the second stage of the cycle titled as a crisis has begun. However, there are no indications as to when recession and recovery will take place, and in what form.
Until then, two questions will stay open. When will the current cycle reach recession and then recovery? And will the new cycle begin in the year 2020, the 100th Centennial of Greater Lebanon?
Nahla El-Zibawi is project coordinator for the Outreach and Leadership Academy, Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development. Email: [email protected]
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 11, 2017, on page 3.