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.


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.


Coronavirus: 16 killed in Iran, 95 infected

Workers disinfect Qom’s Masumeh shrine, which is visited by a large number of people, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 26 February 2020

Coronavirus: 16 killed in Iran, 95 infected

  • Six Saudi women recovering in Bahrain as Kingdom warns against travel to Italy and Japan

DUBAI: Two more people infected with the new coronavirus have died, taking the toll in Iran to 16, a Health Ministry official told state TV on Tuesday.

Iran has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside China, where the virus emerged late last year.
“Among those who had been suspected of the virus, 35 have been confirmed and two died of the coronavirus infection,” said Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. He said 95 people had been infected across Iran.
The Health Ministry urged Iranians to stay at home.
Iran said on Monday 900 cases were suspected, dismissing claims by a lawmaker from Qom who said 50 people had died in the city, the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Iran, which confirmed its first two deaths last week in Qom, has yet to say how many people it has quarantined, but the semi-official Mehr news agency said 320 people had been hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, Iran’s deputy health minister, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is now under quarantine.
Six Arab countries have reported their first cases of coronavirus, with those infected all having links to Iran. Kuwait said the number of infected people there had risen to eight.
Bahrain’s Health Ministry said 15 more people, including six Saudi women, had tested positive for the virus after returning from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah. The new cases were carried by Bahraini and Saudi nationals who arrived at Bahrain International Airport from Iran via Dubai or Sharjah.
The Saudi Ministry of Health said that it was coordinating with Bahraini health officials for the treatment of the Saudi women who had visited Iran. They will remain in Bahrain until they are fully recovered. The Kingdom has advised citizens and residents to avoid traveling to Italy and Japan.
Iranian authorities have ordered the nationwide cancellation of concerts and soccer matches and the closure of schools and universities in many provinces.
The head of Qom’s Medical Science University, Mohammad Reza Ghadir, expressed concern over “the spread of those people infected by the virus across the city,” adding the Health Ministry had banned releasing figures linked to the coronavirus.
Many Iranians took to social media to accuse authorities of concealing the facts.
Rouhani called for calm, saying the outbreak was no worse than other epidemics that Iran has weathered.
The sight of Iranians wearing masks and gloves is now common in much of the country.
Sales of masks, disinfectant gels and disposable gloves have soared in Tehran and other cities, with officials vowing to prevent hoarding and shortages by boosting production.
Iran has shut schools, universities and cultural centers until the end of the week in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The UAE has banned all flights to and from Iran. The UAE, home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad, remains a key international transit route for Iran’s 80 million people.
Emirates, the government-owned carrier based in Dubai, flies daily to Tehran. Its low-cost sister airline, FlyDubai, flies to multiple Iranian cities, as does the Sharjah-based low-cost carrier Air Arabia.
The announcement came after Bahrain said it would suspend all flights from Dubai and Sharjah.
Kuwait raised the number of its infected cases to eight, after earlier raising the number to five. It said the three latest cases involved Kuwaiti citizens just back from Iran, without giving more details. The five previously reported cases were passengers returning on a flight from the Iranian city of Mashhad, where Iran’s government has not yet announced a single case of the virus.
Kuwait had halted transport links with Iran over the weekend and said it was evacuating its citizens from Iran.
An Iraqi family of four who returned from a visit to Iran tested positive for the coronavirus, the first Iraqis known to have caught the disease.
The four cases in Kirkuk province brought Iraq’s total to five after it reported its first case on Monday, an Iranian theology student in Najaf. Iraq is deeply concerned about its exposure to the Iranian outbreak, as it has deep cultural and religious ties with its neighbor and typically receives millions of Iranians each year.
The Iraqi government, which has already banned all travel from China and Iran, added Italy, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Japan to its travel ban list on Tuesday. Returning Iraqi citizens are exempt, as are diplomats.
Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr suspended a call for his followers to hold a “million-man” protest, saying he had decide to forbid the events “for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else.”
“I had called for million-man protests and sit-ins against sectarian power-sharing and today I forbid you from them for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else,” he said in a statement. It was not immediately clear how the government’s call on citizens to avoid public gatherings would affect the strength of anti-government protests, and the response of security forces.
A Turkish Airlines plane flying from Iran was diverted to Ankara on Tuesday at the Turkish Health Ministry’s request and an aviation news website said one passenger was suspected of being infected by coronavirus.
Turkey’s Demiroren news agency broadcast video showing ambulances lined up beside the plane, with several personnel wearing white protective suits on the tarmac.
The plane was flying from Tehran and had been scheduled to land in Istanbul. Turkey shut its borders to Iran on Sunday and cut flights due to the spread of the virus in that country.
Oman’s Khasab port has suspended the import and export of goods to and from Iran from Feb. 26.