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This following article was published in Fall/Winter 2013 (GMR1) and is free of charge but copyright by the International Geostrategic Maritime Review and registered at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF).
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A CITY ON THE SEA : Tripoli, Lebanon
Authors : Romain Aby and Staff Researchers
The socio-economic roots of a looming crisis : Tripoli on the brink
The phenomenon of the port city of Tripoli, as well as its isolation from Lebanon’s administrative capital has had a disastrous effect on the local economy. The economic tendency is on a downward slope, driven by security tensions and political cleavages, which will certainly grow as economic disparity widens among the different districts of the city. Seeing Tripoli front stage too often is a direct result of a spike in the violence between the Sunni and Alawite communities.
This study is meant to lead to a profound reflection on the local economy which is in great difficulty and which also has a direct impact on the security situation of the city specifically and on the region in general. As the capital of Northern Lebanon, Tripoli has the power to greatly influence the surrounding regions, such as Akkar in the North and Zgarta in the East and Koura in the South.
Improving the economy should be the priority today, as certain reports indicate that the poverty index97 has reached 51% of the population, or 370,000 people98. In 2009, Tripoli and the North of Lebanon was home to 30,5% of the poor families in the country99. These indicators are quite worrisome and make the city a economic priority zone, along with the region of Akkar and Minieh-Dinniyeh.
According to the study by ESCWA, the poorest districts of Tripoli are Bab el Tebbaneh, Swaiqa et Souk quarter. It is not surprising to see the crystallisation of security threats originating from Bab el Tebbaneh. For example, the inhabitants of the two rival districts, Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tebbaneh, have particularly low salaries : 50,4% of the families in these two zones live on less than $333 a month, which puts 82% of the families earning less than $533 dollars a month.
The heart of the city of Tripoli, from a demographic point of view, is situated in the corridor following the Nahr Abou Ali River, which crosses the city from North to South on its way to the Mediterranean Sea. This river, 44,5 kilometers102 in length, has its source in the Qadisha Valley in Northern Lebanon and is very polluted as it serves as an open sewer to the city’s population. On the western side of the river, the zone is densely populated and makes up the districts of Abou Samra (which has become one of the poorest quarters of the city), the Citadelle, the old town and Zahrieh. However, on the eastern flank of the river, there are only Qubbet el Nasr, facing the Old City and Bab el Tebbaneh, further North, where the population density is high.
In the northern part of the capital, the illiteracy rate is 19% in Bab el Tebaneh and 13% 103 in the Old City quarter. Amongst those students in school, 65% are enrolled in the 70 public schools whose reputation for scholastic achievement is much lower than that of the 55 private schools104 which enroll 35%105 of the students. The rate of student drop-outs is much higher in the poorer districts of Tripoli, where more than 50% of the students leave school to help support their families106. This fragilises the young people who enter a disorganised labor market, which encourages in some cases, delinquency in certain zones of the city, such as in Jabal Mohsen or Bab el Tebbaneh. The latter is known throughout Lebanon has having the highest national rate of minor delinquents.
It would be interesting to conduct a research project on the geography of education in Tripoli. Only a more targeted study would reveal that the public schools are located in poorest parts of the heart of the city; and the private schools are located on the coastal areas, in residential areas. Undertaking a study of this sort would allow the Lebanese policymakers to rethink the inefficient education system in Tripoli.