More people living in poverty in Lebanon, says World Bank

A man collects goods from a garbage bin in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli on December 12, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 09 February 2020

More people living in poverty in Lebanon, says World Bank

  • “The financial crisis has exposed this monopoly system” in Lebanon’s economy, he said. “Speculation might totally erode the value of the Lebanese pound”

BEIRUT: There is an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line in Lebanon, said the director of the World Bank’s Mashreq Department, which covers Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Iran.
Saroj Kumar Jha stressed the “necessity to take into consideration the needs of poorer sections of society in any program that would be set by the Lebanese government.”
Dr. Bashir Ismat, a professor of development studies and an expert at the Social Affairs Ministry, told Arab News: “The rate of people living in poverty has increased to 40 percent, and might even reach 50 or 70 percent if the state and Lebanese banks file for bankruptcy.”

The Ministry of Social Affairs in Lebanon estimates that 20 percent of the people who suffer from extreme poverty currently live below 4 dollars a day, compared to 8 percent in 2019.
Dr. Bashir Esmat said: “This percentage is likely to increase in case the economic collapse.”
Dr. Esmat talked about a “phenomena that the Ministry of Social Affairs began to witness recently, which was not seen before, as it was monitored that young students arrived at public schools in the Bekaa region, who had not eaten for two days due to lack of food in their homes.”
Dr. Esmat said: "If this is the case of the Bekaa, then the situation in North Lebanon is much worse because extreme poverty we see in this region.”

Zuhair Berro, head of the Consumer Protection Association, told Arab News that the current crisis in Lebanon is “unprecedented, especially that prices have increased by 40 percent in the last three months.”
He expressed fears of a further deterioration in the economy, adding that even before the crisis, prices in Lebanon were already 30 percent higher than in neighboring countries.

FASTFACT

Consumer Protection Association chief Zuhair Berro fears of a further deterioration in the economy, adding that even before the crisis, prices in Lebanon were already 30 percent higher than in neighboring countries.

“The financial crisis has exposed this monopoly system” in Lebanon’s economy, he said. “Speculation might totally erode the value of the Lebanese pound.”
Ismat said: “The World Bank is negotiating with the Lebanese government to provide it with loans dedicated to social safety nets.”
Berro said “the political class doesn’t have any solution” to the crisis, adding: “The former government stepped down and left the bank owners in control of the Lebanese pound. In addition, the statement of the new government didn’t include serious solutions. We’re heading toward total chaos, and we need remedies for the causes of the crisis.”
Meanwhile, protesters returned to the streets over the weekend and organized sit-ins in front of the Interior Ministry, the Banque du Liban (Central Bank) and Riad El-Solh Square opposite Parliament and the government headquarters.

 


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 26 May 2020

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.