|Artwork by Tarek Chemaly|
Wherever we go (and we are not going anywhere), there we are...
In Lebanon, 2021 is starting exactly where 2020 left off.
Saluting the medical staff which is fighting covid (wait, haven't we done that enough?).
Cases of covid surging to unprecedented heights (haven't we gone to such heights before? Actually, no, with people being reckless after an original super tight respect for the law - as I predicted here - the number of cases is spiraling out of control).
We are heading towards our umpteenth total (?) lockdown with our (incalculable?) exceptions (again, haven't we seen this enough in 2020 - the best part was the nightclubs open but without dancing).
Banks are still running totally crazy. To begin with there is zero coordination between them. No Bank is acting the same, and when a new policy is enacted, clients (remember it's the clients' money in there) are told after the fact not before it. Mind you all banks are acting this way, meaning, a client comes trying to withdraw money only to be told that no, this month the amount changed (usually decreased!) or what not.
We still do not have a new government (what else is new?). The political discourse in Lebanon is still very stagnant at this stage. Interestingly, everyone is waiting for outside signals to come by (mainly the US transition of presidency, which astounds me, because - in case you have not heard - the new administration has bigger fish to fry!).
The advertising scene - the focus of this blog usually alongside with communication - is still in, literally, the death throes. I recognize there are some campaigns running on billboards but this is no indicator that things are picking up.
Many agencies are either handling their MENA accounts from Beirut (if they have international affiliations), tried to establish satellite offices somewhere in the gulf, are creating systems to avoid having to deal with banks when it comes to payments, and are trying to pick up the debris (literally) of the August 4 Beirut explosion.
Freelancers are really being hit hard. To begin with, Companies are recruiting them on the cheap (very very cheap) under the guise of "fresh Dollar" (which means they are paid in new Dollars as opposed to "Lollar" or Dollar already stuck in the banking system in Lebanon) and considering the difference of value between the two, companies in the gulf are recruiting them to do work from Lebanon while abusing their need to survive here.
Also, banks are blocking all incoming money which these freelancers have gained - the excuse is usually "fear of money laundering", and this only leaves companies like Western Union as a way of payment (the payment is deducted by 2% upon arrival by the way, unless it comes from an American bank). Interestingly, companies cannot send by Western Union, it needs to be individuals - which added a further layer of trying to jump through hoops!
If so far you are not dispirited just by reading this, try living this on day to day basis.