New Internationalist

The Facts

August 1994

new internationalist
issue 258 - August 1994

B E I R U T[image, unknown] -[image, unknown] T H E[image, unknown] F A C T S
Beirut is Lebanon in a nutshell. One-third of the population of the country lives in the
capital, and 800,000 more commute in every day. Today, it is Lebanon's showpiece,
its shopfront, where most of the post-war rebuilding is being concentrated.1

NOW


THE ECONOMY
Between 1990 and 1992:
[image, unknown] Industrial exports increased from $190 million to $420 million
[image, unknown] Construction permits increased from 2,180 to 10,745
[image, unknown] Passengers passing through Beirut airport have increased from 709,000 to 1,043,000
[image, unknown] Electricity production increased from 1,394 to 4,033 million kilowatts
[image, unknown] The number of ships coming to Beirut's port increased from 671 to 3,054
[image, unknown] Horizon 2000 is a ten-year plan for rebuilding Lebanon which will cost $29 billion

THE PEOPLE
[image, unknown] 90,000 families are still internal refugees; several hundred thousand are still living abroad
[image, unknown] A minimum of 350,000 Palestinians have no hope of citizenship either in Lebanon or in a new Palestinian state
[image, unknown] Unemployment has risen from 5.5% before the war to 35% today
[image, unknown] Private income: the richest fifth of the population receive 55% of private income while the poorest fifth receive only 4%

EDUCATION
[image, unknown] Teachers went on strike this year to protest about the Government's strategy on wages
[image, unknown] Literacy: because they missed out on education during the war, 382,300 people, or 20% of the population aged 20 and above are illiterate 3
[image, unknown] Government schools are under-funded. There are not enough state schools to cater for the whole school population
[image, unknown] The gap is sometimes filled by confessional groups; many children would not go to school if it were not for privately-funded Islamic education

ENVIRONMENT
[image, unknown] The Government has set up a Ministry for the Environment - but this is still very weak and a range of new legislation is needed
[image, unknown] The water table and most of the natural springs have been polluted - large numbers of illegal wells were dug during the war
[image, unknown] Solid and also toxic waste has been dumped into the sea
[image, unknown] Air pollution in Beirut is among the highest in the world
[image, unknown] Deforestation - including the mountain cedars which are the Lebanon's national emblem - has left only 3% of the country forested, compared with 18% in the 1950s, though reforestation is now beginning
[image, unknown] Improper use of fertilizers has rendered some previously fertile areas of the Beq'aa valley infertile due to soil salination

 

AND DURING THE WAR...


THE ECONOMY
[image, unknown] The budget deficit rose from 21.8% in 1975 to 81.1% in 1986
[image, unknown] In 1980 one US$ bought 3.4 Lebanese pounds. In 1992 this had increased to 1,730 pounds to the $
[image, unknown] Gross Domestic Product declined from 8.1 billion Lebanese pounds in 1974 to 3.8 billion in 1986
[image, unknown] Income per head of the population fell from $1,869 in 1974 to $979 in 1985
[image, unknown] Inflation rose from 23.7% in 1980 to 620% in 1987

THE PEOPLE
[image, unknown] At least 360,000 people (14% of the population) had at least one member of their family killed, wounded or kidnapped during the war:
[image, unknown] Dead 125,000
[image, unknown] Wounded 250,000
[image, unknown] Missing 174,152
[image, unknown] Internal refugees: 1.46 million - more than half the population - between 1975 and 1987
[image, unknown] Migration: 637,254 people, mostly professionals or skilled labourers, left the country between 1975 and 1987. Nearly one-quarter of all Lebanese were abroad at some point during the war
[image, unknown] 180,000 household units were destroyed during the war, and as many were seriously damaged

EDUCATION
[image, unknown] There was not a single year during the war in which most schools did not have to close due to fighting and shelling - many acted as refugee centres for long periods
[image, unknown] To ensure that pupils covered the basic subjects during these closures, those considered less important, like art, history, geography and sport were skipped
[image, unknown] In 1982 50% of schools were private - today these are too expensive for the majority of the population
[image, unknown] Universities split and catered for different confessions; courses with any 'political' content had to be taught in Cyprus

NOW: THE BASICS

[image, unknown] The population of Lebanon rose from 2.4 million in 1972 to 3.7 million in 1993
[image, unknown] The population of Beirut is 1.2 million
[image, unknown] Life expectancy is 65
[image, unknown] The under-five mortality rate is 44 in 1,000
[image, unknown] The total land area is similar to that of Wales
[image, unknown] The main language is Arabic
[image, unknown] The dominant religions are Christianity (mainly Maronite) and Islam - Shi'a Sunni and Druze

Notes:
1. All information either from authors of articles, or from Theodor Hanf Coexistence in wartime Lebanon, Centre for Lebanese Studies/IB Tauris 1993, except where otherwise indicated.
2. Beirut Police Department, quoted in The Guardian 11.3.92.
3. Quoted in the Ecumenical Popular Education Newsletter, February 1994.

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This feature was published in the August 1994 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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