Lebanon’s submerged third
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 10, 2008
My father tells great stories about his college days in Boston, including one about a business department professor who used to refer (with lisp) to “the thubmerged third”. I always assumed it was an idiosyncratic expression, but since I wanted to use it for today’s post title, I thought I should google it first.
It turns out that “the submerged third” was an expression used during the Depression to describe the estimated third of the population who were hit hard by the collapse of America’s rural economy. And now that I know its history, I think it is all the more appropriate to headline what I found the most sobering in this AFP article about inflation in Lebanon:
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), nearly one million Lebanese, or 28.5 percent of the population, live on four dollars (2.55 euros) a day and with nearly eight percent having to survive on 2.40 dollars a day.
“This implies that almost 300,000 individuals in Lebanon are unable to meet their food and non-food basic needs,” the UNDP said in a February report.
“The bottom 20 percent of the population accounts for only seven percent of all consumption in Lebanon while the richest 20 percent accounts for 43 percent,” it added.
Lebanon’s inflation rate reached 9.3 percent in 2007, up sharply from 5.6 percent a year earlier, according the Central Administration for Statistics.
The 2007 rise included a 14.8 percent jump in food prices, and a 20.9 percent hike for utilities.
Salaries, however, have not kept up with inflation, with the minimum monthly wage standing at 300,000 pounds, or 200 dollars.
Yikes. I knew that the average monthly wage in Lebanon is around $150, which sounds appallingly low, but I had never costed it out in terms of daily spending. $4 a day: a one-kilo bag of bread costs $.67, a liter of fresh milk costs $1.50, a bus ride costs $.33 and a shared taxi/service costs $1, and … I can’t even begin to imagine where fruits and vegetables fit into this daily budget, not to mention meat. Or rent. Or electricity. Or costs for those little luxuries like toothpaste and soap.