Hezbollah Has Created Parallel Financial and Welfare Systems to Manage the Current Crisis

Author
Hanin Ghadder
Content Type
Policy Brief
Institution
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Abstract
To contain corrupt actors and facilitate reform, the international community must provide alternatives to Hezbollah pharmaceutical and food programs while filling gaps that the group is unable to address. Despite Lebanon’s deteriorating financial and economic situation, the country’s political elite have made clear that they will not implement reforms laid out by the international community as prerequisites for a bailout. In their view, the changes specified by the IMF, the World Bank, and the French-sponsored aid framework CEDRE would mean the eventual collapse of their political class, whose corruption and illegal business dealings are protected and encouraged by Hezbollah. Indeed, the emergence of a more independent secular political class that reflects the October 2019 protests is a serious concern for the militia and its allies in government, so they have chosen to manage the crisis rather than resolve it. Thus far, Hezbollah’s crisis-management efforts have far surpassed those of every other political party, civil society organization, and foreign assistance channel. The group’s military structure, organizational expertise, and access to alternative sources are enabling it to pursue temporary strategies for surviving the current crisis, while also retaining independence from state institutions, preserving a measure of support from its core Shia community, and discouraging Shia from joining any further rounds of public unrest. In the longer term, Hezbollah seems to be hoping that a transformative regional development—perhaps a new U.S.-Iranian nuclear agreement or a favorable U.S.-European partnership on Lebanon—will allow it to resolve its own financial crisis and regain access to hard currency, either from the Iranian regime or through international assistance mechanisms. Yet even if Hezbollah seems fairly well-positioned to weather the storm, the Lebanese people—including the group’s support base—are not. According to a new World Bank report, half the population is living below the poverty line, and more will soon join them if the Central Bank stops subsidizing medicine, fuel, wheat, and other essentials two months from now as projected.
Topic
Non State Actors, Finance, Economy, Crisis Management, Hezbollah, Welfare, Militias
Political Geography
Middle East, Lebanon