Lebanon at risk of major food crisis, PM warns

Hassan Diab also warned of a global food security emergency triggered by the pandemic. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 May 2020

Lebanon at risk of major food crisis, PM warns

  • Imported food prices had more than doubled since the start of 2020
  • Eighty percent of Lebanon’s wheat had been coming from Ukraine and Russia

BEIRUT: Lebanon is at risk of a major food crisis and many Lebanese may soon find it hard to afford bread because of an acute financial crunch and the fall-out of COVID-19, the prime minister warned.
Writing in the Washington Post, Hassan Diab also warned of a global food security emergency triggered by the pandemic. He said attempts to restrict food exports must be resisted and called on the United States and the European Union to set up an emergency fund to help the Middle East avoid a severe crisis.
Otherwise, “starvation may spark a new migration flow to Europe and further destabilize the region,” he wrote.
Lebanon was in deep crisis even before COVID-19. The local currency has more than halved in value since October amid a hard currency liquidity shortage. Inflation and unemployment are soaring. Lebanon defaulted on its sovereign debt in March.

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Imported food prices had more than doubled since the start of 2020, Diab wrote. More than half of Lebanon’s food is imported.
“Once the breadbasket of the Eastern Mediterranean, Lebanon is facing a dramatic challenge that seemed unimaginable a decade ago: the risk of a major food crisis,” Diab wrote.
“A few weeks ago, Lebanon witnessed its first ‘hunger protests.’ Many Lebanese have already stopped buying meat, fruits and vegetables, and may soon find it difficult to afford even bread.”
Diab, who took office this year with backing from the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah and its allies, also blamed decades of political mismanagement and corruption for a lack of investment in agriculture.
COVID-19 and lockdowns had “dramatically worsened the economic crisis and profoundly disrupted the food supply chain.”
Eighty percent of Lebanon’s wheat had been coming from Ukraine and Russia, but last month, Russia suspended wheat exports, while Ukraine is considering a similar move, he said.


Erdogan’s son-in-law leaves sovereign wealth fund

Updated 10 min 23 sec ago

Erdogan’s son-in-law leaves sovereign wealth fund

  • The 42-year-old quit as finance minister in a cryptic November 8 message on Instagram
  • His resignation was ignored by state media until it was formally accepted by Erdogan the next night

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law quit as the deputy head of Turkey’s huge sovereign wealth fund, completing a fall from grace that began with his surprise resignation as finance minister.
Berat Albayrak had been viewed as Turkey’s second most powerful figure until his chaotic departure from the government at the start of the month.
Married to the Turkish leader’s elder daughter, the 42-year-old quit as finance minister in a cryptic November 8 message on Instagram that cited health reasons.
His resignation from the helm of the Turkish economy was ignored by state media for more than 24 hours, until it was formally accepted by Erdogan the next night.
Albayrak’s two-year tenure as economy chief saw the lira lose 40 percent of its value against the dollar and the central bank burn though most of its reserves in trying to defend the currency.
His departure was linked to Erdogan’s appointment of a new market-friendly central banker whom Albayrak had strongly opposed.
Naci Agbal, the new central bank governor, sharply raised the main interest rate at his first policy meeting last week, helping the lira halt its slide.
Yet Albayrak still held on to his post as deputy head of the sovereign wealth fund, which was created in 2016 and now manages state assets officially valued at $22.6 billion.
Erdogan’s office said little about Albayrak’s departure, noting in a one-sentence statement that he “left the board of the sovereign wealth fund of Turkey after asking to take leave.”
He was appointed as its deputy head in 2018, the same year Erdogan became its official chief.