Independent republic in Asia with 4.0 million inhabitants (2009 estimate) and an ara of 10,452 km². Its capital is Beirut, which is also by far the largest city in the country.
Administratively is Lebanon divided into 6 governorates, called muhafaza.
Day independence is November 22, 1943, when self-governance was peacefully obtained from League of Nations mandate under French administration.
Head of state is President Michel Sleiman. Lebanon is a country where leading functions are more evenly shared between several state leaders, and the prime minister, Najib Mikati, has a position of exercising much power. The speaker of parliament is another important position, presently headed by Nabih Berri. The president of Lebanon must be a MaroniteChristian, the prime minister a SunniMuslim and the Speaker of parliament a Shi’i Muslim. The Lebanese government has no less than 37 ministries. The National Assembly has 128 members.
Lebanon is only at no. 83 among 182 world states on the Human Development Index, and no. 10 among MENA countries. On a scale with 1.000 as maximum, Lebanon gains 0.803 points. Although not climbing on the list, Lebanon shows positive signs, gaining 0.029 points compared to 2008, a much better improvement than any other MENA country.
The currency of Lebanon is pound (LBD), and is generally convertible to foreign currencies. The currency is called lira in Arabic, and is sometimes referred to by its French name; livre. It is associated with the US $ dollar, but not fixed, and since 1997, the exchange rate with the dollar has fluctuated no more than 2.5%.
Lebanon is still in the middle of rebuilding its society from the civil war. Yet, the GDP per capita at US$11,100 (2008 estimate) is already 13% above world average, confirming the image of Lebanon as one of the most dynamic societies in the Middle East. Unemployment is at 9% and as many as 28% of the population are below the poverty line.
Lebanon has since the devastating civil war rebuilt its services to become no. 4 among MENA countries. The country today faces the challenges of overdevelopment.
Lebanon is ranked high among MENA countries for its education system, but faces the challenge of too many universities.
While most Lebanese call themselves Arabs, there is increasing focus on a Phoenician identity. Lebanon has several smaller people minorities.
Arabic dominates Lebanon. French and English are popular languages in media and within the elite. Lebanon also has living minority languages like Armenian, Kurdish and Aramaic.
No country in the MENA is more fragmented according to religion than Lebanon. Sunni and Shi’i Muslims stand far apart, and there are many strong Christian communities in addition to Druze religion.
Fertility rates of Lebanon are today lower than the reproductive level, yet statistics show that population growth is very high, 2.2%.
Lebanon’s history goes deeper in time than history itself. Modern Lebanon is a troubled nation, balancing antagonism and and suspicion of the multi-cultural society.
|By Tore Kjeilen|
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