BEIRUT—The economic crisis that has plunged half of Lebanon’s population into poverty threatens the future of its schools and universities too, leading economists say.
“The Lebanese economy is in a state of clinical death,” said Alia Moubayed, chief economist for an investment bank. “The next government should declare a state of economic emergency.”
Walid Marrouch, an associate professor of economics at the Lebanese American University, agrees that “the future is very bleak as Lebanon suffers from a combination of economic and banking depression.” Institutions, including educational establishments, “are in an economic destruction mode,” he said.
“It is unlikely that banks which exist today will be able to survive, and the same applies to schools and universities,” Marrouch said. “I believe that the number of universities will shrink and just a few will be able to overcome the crisis.”
Lebanon is in urgent need of a comprehensive economic stabilization and growth recovery program to stop the hemorrhage that is draining its coffers and causing a brain drain among its youth and professionals, Moubayed said.
“The GDP shrank from some $50 billion in 2019 to less than $20 billion in 2020,” she said. “Inflation soared by 130 percent, along with the steep devaluation of the local currency, … and more than 50 percent of the Lebanese population fell under the poverty line.” (See a related article, “Lebanon’s Double Crisis Crushes Both Students and Universities.”)
Shift From Private to Public Schools
Although education is usually an expense on which Lebanese households do not compromise, an unprecedented number of families have transferred their children from private to public schools.
“There is a big trend of migration from costly schools to cheaper ones in both the private and public systems,” observed Adnan El Amine, a fellow consultant on education with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.