The UNHCR released its annual Global Trends Report: World At War on Thursday, and revealed that the number of people displaced by war and persecution has reached a new high whereas one in every 122 humans globally is either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum. We are talking about almost 60 million people that were forcibly displaced compared to 51.2 million in 2013.
As far as refugees per 1,000 inhabitants ratio is concerned, Lebanon is still leading the way with 232 refugees, followed by Jordan with 87. The “good” news though is that this number has slightly dropped from mid-2014 where it peaked at 257, which could be due to the visa restrictions set by the Lebanese authorities.
Needless to say, there’s still a lot of work to be done as refugees need to be regrouped in decent camps and should get the necessary help. Of course Lebanon needs all the help he can get from Arab countries and the UN, but more importantly, we need transparency and accountability when it comes to foreign aids to ensure funds are not going into the wrong pockets.
The Abu Dhabi Police has apparently decided to add Lykan HyperSport to its fleet as part of “its efforts to reach out to residents, especially the youth, on traffic safety”. I’m not really sure how buying a 3.8-liter twin-turbo flat-six engine with a 770 horsepower super-car and displaying it at touristic locations and malls will help promote road safety but it’s worth a try if they can afford (which they can) paying $3.4 million for the car.
Just to give you an idea on how exclusive the Lykan HyperSport, a supercar made by W-Motors a Lebanese-based company by the way, it is the first Middle Eastern supercar and one of the world’s fastest. Moreover, the super-car is one of only seven in the world and features “diamond-encrusted headlights and an interior straight out of Star Trek”. It was featured in the latest Fast & Furious 7 movie “flying” from one skyscraper to the other.
The Lykan is definitly not the first supercar to join Abu Dhabi’s police fleet as the Rolls-Royce Phantom was recently acquired. Dubai’s police fleet is as impressive and includes a Lexus RCF, a McLaren MP4-12C, Aston Martin One-77, Audi R8, Bugatti Veyron, Mercedes SLS, BMW M6, Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari FF, and a Bentley Continental GT.
I am going to label this post under “Humor” because this is an absolutely ridiculous list that makes no sense whatsoever and I’m quite surprised that the Telegraph and Time decided to share it without double checking some of its findings. Out of the 64 cities categorized as “extreme risk” in Verisk Maplecroft’s new Global Alerts Dashboard (GAD), there are 6 Lebanese cities: Beirut, Byblos, Aley, Baabda, Jounieh and Zahlé.
Noting that the rankings are based on “an online mapping and data portal that logs and analyses every reported terrorism incident down to levels of 100m² worldwide”, and that is based on the “intensity and frequency of attacks in the 12 months following February 2014, combined with the number and severity of incidents in the previous five years”, I am not sure how cities like Byblos, Aley, Baabda, Jounieh and Zahlé made the list while Tripoli wasn’t even mentioned. When was the last time you heard about an attack in Jounieh, Byblos or Baabda? The areas aren’t even close to conflict areas like Zahle is. Moreover, how is Beirut more at risk of a terror attack than Damascus?
Funnily enough, I was just praising Jbeil yesterday for winning the Arab Tourism Capital Title for 2016 and now it’s on some world’s deadliest cities list.
Update: I am going to email the Telegraph and Time and ask them to revise this article.
BBC are calling these rankings the “biggest ever global school rankings” as they were “based on an amalgamation of international assessments, including the OECD’s Pisa tests, the TIMSS tests run by US-based academics and TERCE tests in Latin America, putting developed and developing countries on a single scale”. The analysis was based on test scores in maths and science in 76 countries and put Asian countries in the top five places and African countries at the bottom.
As far as Lebanon is concerned, we ranked 58th worldwide and 3rd in the region after the UAE (1st) and Bahrain (2nd). In terms of economic growth potential, Lebanon can achieve an 816% GDP increase if all pupils (15 year old) are enrolled in schools and that they achieve at least basic skills.
Here’s a list showing rankings in the Arab World:
United Arab Emirates 45
Saudi Arabia 66
Worldwide, Singapore came first, followed by Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The UK ranked 20th, the US 28th and Ghana got the worst ranking at 76.
As you all probably heard by now, UAE citizens will no longer require a visa to travel to Schengen Zone Countries, after the European Parliament approved their proposal back in June last year. Needless to say, the Lebanese weren’t very fond of this decision and filed an official complaint to the EU claiming that they deserve this more than other Arab countries, specially after a study proved that Lebanon is indeed the centre of the universe, and given that Beirut was once known as the “Paris of the Middle East”.
In order to calm things down, and given how crucial Lebanon’s economy and tourists are to the European Union, the EU held an emergency meeting and agreed to grant Lebanese a visa-free access to Schengen Zone Countries if its citizens agree to abide by the following 10 conditions:
1- Lebanese will stand in line while boarding an airplane.
2- Lebanese will not fake bank statements or 5 star hotel reservations in their Schengen application.
3- Lebanese will not attempt to bribe the security guard at embassies.
4- Lebanese will not apply to a different country than the one they are going to.
5- Lebanese will not change seats on the airplane and confuse the hostesses.
6- Lebanese will not attempt to carry a 50kg luggage into the airplane as a carry-on
7- Lebanese will no longer clap when the plane lands.
8- Lebanese will not play loud Arabic music (or sing a mouwwel) on the airplane.
9- Lebanese will not attempt to smuggle keshek or basterma.
10- Lebanese will not schedule five different appointments on the same day to avoid waiting in line.
Despite everything that’s been happening in the past few years and despite having the worst ranked country in the world in terms of freedom as a neighbor (Syria), Lebanon was still ranked as a partly-free country in the 2015 Freedom House report. Kuwait was the only other partly free country in the Arab World while Tunisia “became the Arab world’s only Free country after holding democratic elections under a new constitution”, and the first Arab country to achieve the status of Free since Lebanon was gripped by civil war. Lebanon scored 4.5 out of 7 in Freedom Rating, 4 in Civil Liberties and 5 in political rights thereby earning the “partly free” status.
Unfortunately though, Lebanon was given a well deserved “downward trend arrow due to the parliament’s repeated failure to elect a president and its postponement of overdue legislative elections for another two and a half years, which left the country with a presidential void and a National Assembly whose mandate expired in 2013”. As far as Arab countries are concerned, Kuwait was also ranked as partly free, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Iraq, Jordan and Yemen were ranked not-free, while Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Syria were ranked among the worst in the world.
Check out the full report [here] and more about Lebanon [here].
Fixr.com put together a map of the world with the most-Googled for object in each country, using the auto-complete formula of “How much does * cost in [x country]”. Of course the results aren’t scientific but they are fun to look at.
Here are some of the findings from the Arab world:
– People want to know how much a wedding and a PS3 cost in Lebanon.
– People want to know how much a loaf of bread costs in Syria.
– People want to know how much a camel costs in Saudi Arabia.
– People want to know how much a Ferrari costs in the UAE.
– People want to know how much a Lamborghini costs in Kuwait.
– People want to know how much a kidney costs in Iran.
I don’t know why people are still looking for the PS3 in Lebanon but the wedding cost does make sense and I was actually planning to write few posts about it because it’s almost impossible to get any cost estimate for a wedding here and you can barely find any useful information online.
Check out what other countries are looking for [Here].
The first World Happiness Report was released in 2012 and ranked Lebanon in the 97th position worldwide and 8th position among Arab countries. In the 2015 World Happiness Report, Lebanon dropped 6 spots and was ranked 103rd, which makes sense given the stressful times we’ve been through in the past couple of years. The report also found that “GDP per capita was one of the most important explanatory variables in determining national happiness, along with social support (if you have someone in your life you can count on), healthy life expectancy, freedom (answer to the question “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?”), generosity (“Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?”), and government corruption”.
As far as Arab countries are concerned, UAE ranked first followed by Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The least happy country in the region and (almost) worldwide (156th out of 158) is the Syrian one. Worldwide, Switzerland came on top, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Finland.
Here’s the full list for Arab countries (Rank 2015):
Syrian Arab Republic 156
We all know by now that Lebanon’s oil and gas reserves off its coast might be the richest and best in the Mediterranean, and a lot of Lebanese are thrilled about this discovery and already started dreaming about a wealthy country with a solid infrastructure, prosperous economy and a strong army, but transparency and accountability are needed to make the best out of these resources and we are very far from that in Lebanon!
Corruption is at an all time high, Our MPs have extended their term, we don’t have a president and most of the parties handling the oil & gas file are not trustworthy. For that sake, I’ve been following up mostly on reports from [Executive Magazine] and [MESP], and other useful articles like HMA Tom Fletcher’s take on this matter and what George Sassine, who’s an energy policy expert, had to say about it.
George Sassine also happens to be one of the founders of LOGI, The Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative (LOGI), which is an independent NGO based in Beirut that aims to create a network of experts across the world to help Lebanon benefit from its oil and gas wealth, and avoid the resource curse. I was introduced to LOGI by a friend a week ago and I think what they are aiming to do is exactly what Lebanon needs to maximize the economic and social benefits of its oil and gas wealth. We need an expert’s point of view on these issues and we need competent individuals to inform us citizens on the key issues facing facing Lebanon’s oil and gas industry, and help us understand what’s happening around us and what’s being cooked behind our backs by corrupt parties. Once policies are set in motion and contracts are locked for decades, it will be impossible to change anything and we might fall into the resource curse forever!
Just in case you don’t know what the resource curse is, it is also known as the “paradox of plenty and refers to the paradox that countries and regions with an abundance of natural resources, specifically point-source non-renewable resources like minerals and fuels, tend to have less economic growth and worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources. This is mainly due to governments mismanagement, corruption, instability and other factors”.
LOGI is asking people to join their initiative and support them to kick off the initiative through a dedicated website and finance their first research projects. The website will include infographics, dynamic animations, videos, detailed reports and a database of all analyses and news articles on oil and gas in Lebanon both in Arabic and English, and the first research projects will include policy briefs on Lebanon’s export infrastructure strategy, and fiscal policy strategy. LOGI already secured a large part of the amount needed ($10,000), which is honestly nothing when compared to the billions at risk if the oil & gas goes into the wrong hands.
I’m not writing this post to ask readers to donate money as I’m sure they will secure it before the deadline, but to shed the light on this initiative and ask those interested to get engaged and contribute to driving change in Lebanon. I honestly believe we need similar initiatives for all our problems in Lebanon whereas experts join hands to inform the citizens of what’s really happening, put pressure on the government and concerned parties and offer solutions and reports. On the other hand, it is important for us as citizens to follow up on these NGOs and hold them accountable when they break their promises, the same way we should be doing with our politicians.
Georges Sassine is a Harvard University alum and an energy policy expert with a wide range of experience with several multinational companies. He has been widely published commenting on energy, transparency and public policy issues including the Financial Times, CNN, the Huffington Post, Annahar, L’Orient le Jour, the Daily Star and others.
Karen Ayat is a Partner and Contributor to Natural Gas Europe – a leading platform that provides information and analyses of natural gas developments. Karen emerged as a key expert on the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean and her work has been widely published, mainly by Natural Gas Europe and Energy Tribune. She holds an LLM in Commercial Law from City University London and reads International Relations and Contemporary War at King’s College London.
Jeremy Arbid is an energy and public affairs analyst focused on Lebanon’s oil and gas industry. He is currently a journalist covering economics and government policy for Executive Magazine in Beirut. He holds a Master in Public Administration from the American University of Beirut, and a bachelor in Political Science from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Research fellows: several research fellows are helping LOGI launch various research projects including 4 Harvard University master students, and an ESCP Europe Business School graduate.
LOGI’s Advisory Board is formed from several high level executives and experts spanning multinational energy companies, an international energy law firm, a world renowned think tank, academics from top universities, as well as experts from global NGOs focused on transparency in the oil and gas sector.
Arabian Business published the 100 most powerful Arabs under 40 list which included 16 Lebanese. The top ranked was Iqbal Al Asaad who’s a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, followed by Amal Clooney, Maher Zain, Rani Raad and Nancy Ajram. Khalil Beschir, a Lebanese racing driver and the first ever Arab to race in a single-seater World Championship was also featured on that list.