It was a wave of unblemished catastrophe. Staccato of screams blared through the chaotic air, fear draped the country like a wet woolen blanket; suffocating and heavy to move. People were flayed as they tried to conjure up ways to remain alive. It was like an episode of purge with the twist of abhorring violence happening all the time for days on end. While some lost their lives, others simply stopped living; their will to live snuffed out by their torturers. Businesses were either looted or turned into ash, homes were ransacked and morphed into debris. It was a time when a day survived brought a sigh of relief out of people’s quivering lips. If at all by the time the flaming situation simmered and you still had a roof over your head, your loved ones intact and life seeping through your veins, you counted yourself lucky.
The year was 2007 and everyone who lived through it possesses a scar metaphorically or literally to prove it. The post election violence took more than 1,100 lives and forced more than 600,000 Kenyans out of their abodes. Our economy suffered immensely after the chaos stilled. Everyone fought to reinstate clarity in the blur, trying to restructure their lives, attain some sort of normalcy. Some people recovered after months, others after years; some never recovered.
Recently, Lebanon suffered profound losses following the explosion that occurred in one of its cities, Beirut.
190 people were killed during the explosion while 6,500 people nursed excruciatingly painful injuries. About 300,000 people were branded homeless in a matter of hours. To some, the occurrence was surreal, like they had been employed as stunt doubles in a film addressing an unforeseen mayhem. They felt like phantoms hovering over the gruesome disaster.
Let’s see how this unfortunate occurrence shifted the waves of the glass and aluminium industry in the capital city of Lebanon.
Economic boom in glass and aluminium industry
About three weeks later, the citizens of Lebanon who were affected by the ammonium nitrate explosion are still struggling to pick up the smithereens of their lives, still trying to piece back their once complete jigsaw. The thing is, they hardly have the pieces to this puzzle as they cannot afford it.
The inferno arising from the port blast destroyed a lot of homes and businesses. Since then people have been trying to rebuild their abodes and workplaces. Shattered glass pieces from windows and doors resulting from the explosion draped the vicinity within which the disaster occurred. This has resulted to a colossal of people purchasing glass panes and aluminium sheets as well. The high demand in these products has led to a hiked supply leading to outrageous costs of production which in turn has soared up their prices to whopping cringe-worthy figures. This has led to a lot of Beirut residents living in houses without doors or windows simply because their prices are impossible.
The demand percentage for glass and aluminium is staggering with it moving from a mere 15% to 200%. The 15% was primarily because of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the incessant political instability within Lebanon which shriveled the country’s economy, particularly this industry.
Since the explosion, however, things are looking up for the players in this sector. They are experiencing a boom in the economy during a time when other sectors are experiencing intensive recessions. An owner of a small shop, Ismail Ahmed, shared with a reporter from Aljazeera about how orders for glass and aluminium from his shop went from seven to fifteen daily, in a span of one week.
The vice president of Consumer Lebanon, Nada Ne’me, says that the wholesalers are the ones reaping heavily from the heightened demand of these goods. She went on to say that these merchants are accruing profit margins reaching as high as 50%. There are some contrary opinions to the matter as analysts point out that this industry was nearing death before the explosion. The glass and aluminium industry was slowly decaying as people had no use for their products or rather they had more pressing needs to take care of during the country’s economic recession.
Analysts insist that this is a way for the industry to pull themselves out from the abyss that is heavy losses.
Government reaction towards the price fluctuations
In the event that prices surpass the price ceiling put in place by the government of a given country, the government intercedes with the aim of preventing consumer exploitation. The Lebanese government promised to subside prices so as to protect its citizens.
Several observers and merchants, however, have not seen this promise pan out. People are still complaining over the heightened prices which ultimately results into people living in poor conditions and businesses failing to recover. They are imploring their government to intervene.
An economic analyst, Mardini, shared a different view on the matter claiming that if the prices are lowered when the cost of production is still high, the construction materials will be moved to black markets and be sold at even higher prices. At this rate, the people affected will have no chance of remodeling their properties.
Fellow African countries like Angola and Egypt announced that they would be sending in donations of glass and aluminium to the county so as to provide succor.
Until now, no one knows whether they even arrived.
Even before the pandemic hit the globe, Lebanon was already facing a recession in the economy. The World Bank had projected that 45% of its citizens would be living under the poverty line by 2020. The country was already facing a large force of unemployed people, life was already hard.
The pandemic made it harder and this explosion just made it impossible.
Picture a house without a single window and door. Imagine how freezing it gets at night time and during the rainy season. Visualize the struggle of a mother tucked in a corner trying to feed warmth to a new born. See a father standing on guard by the door ready to protect his family at all costs. Times are bad, people need to survive. Robberies are on the rise and without windows or doors, the chances of one surviving during a single night are extremely low.
There are several volunteers looking into the matter of restructuring homes in the affected areas but even they cannot afford the glass and aluminium materials.
Soon the merchants will run out of stocks and turn to imports. With their profits going to the rising costs in production and recovery of previous losses, it is highly doubted whether they will be able to afford imported goods.
We all hope that Lebanon will recover fully from this disaster.
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