While the immediate trigger for these protests was a proposed tax on the WhatsApp messaging app, public grievances also included long-standing concerns about poor public services, lack of job opportunities and endemic corruption. This poor track record helps to explain why the IMF, United States and other donors hesitate to commit further funds without meaningful changes.
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The new government, like previous governments, appears unable to act independently from sectarian elites who dominate economic and political decision-making. The government recently appointed a physical therapist to the position of director-general of the Ministry of Economy and Trade, rather than choose someone with an economics or trade qualifications.
In this milieu, foreign donors face a tough choice. Without their immediate support, Lebanon could fall deeper into crisis. But if foreign money trickles in without a credible commitment to reform, the funds may offer a temporary fix — but leave Lebanon in the same situation again in the future.