World Bank approves cash assistance to crisis-struck Lebanon

World Bank approves cash assistance to crisis-struck Lebanon
Lebanon has been struggling with a financial crisis before the coronavirus pandemic struck, driving nearly half the population of the small country of 6 million into poverty. (AFP)
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Updated 13 January 2021

World Bank approves cash assistance to crisis-struck Lebanon

World Bank approves cash assistance to crisis-struck Lebanon
  • The economic crisis has led to a projected 19.2 percent decline in gross domestic product and a triple-digit inflation

BEIRUT: The World Bank approved a $246 million loan to Lebanon to provide emergency cash assistance to nearly 800,000 Lebanese reeling under the country’s compounded economic and health crises.
The World Bank said in a statement late Tuesday the loan would also support the development of a national social safety net in Lebanon, which was struggling with a financial crisis before the pandemic struck, driving nearly half the population of the small country of 6 million into poverty. Over 1 million refugees from Syria live in Lebanon.
The economic crisis has led to a projected 19.2 percent decline in gross domestic product, triple-digit inflation and is pushing 1.7 million people below the poverty line. Some 22 percent of the population is expected to fall into extreme poverty.
International donors have been dispensing direct humanitarian assistance to Lebanon. But in the absence of major structural reforms, talks with the International Monetary Fund that began last summer have failed to produce a rescue package for the cash-strapped government.
The deepening crisis has depleted foreign reserves in the import-dependent country and sent the local currency tumbling, losing nearly 80 percent of its value before the dollar. The government is discussing ways to lift subsidies from some basic goods and has already increased the price of flour and basic bread.
Meanwhile, a surge in coronavirus infections – hovering at around 4,000 new cases a day in recent days – and a strained health care system have compounded concerns. A massive explosion last summer in Beirut Port ravaged the city, killing over 200 and wounding 6,000.
“The consequences of these repeated shocks on the economic well-being of households is far-reaching and potentially disastrous”, said World Bank Regional Director Saroj Kumar Jha.
The loan will provide cash assistance for a year to 147,000 extremely poor Lebanese households, or around 786,000 individuals, through a pre-paid electronic card.
The loan also includes school fees for some 87,000 children between ages 13-18. It will also help Lebanon develop a social registry to determine who would be in need of assistance in the future.
Lebanon has not had a census since 1932, when Christians were a majority. The country has a delicate sectarian balance and now the nation of five million is believed to be equally split between a third Christian, a third Sunni and a third Shiites.


UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships

UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships
Updated 19 January 2021

UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships

UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships
  • The two ministers also discussed the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Both sides discussed ways of strengthening ties in multiple sectors, including in parliamentary areasboth sides discussed ways of strengthening ties in multiple sectors, including in parliamentary areas

DUBAI: The UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs discussed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and ways of ensuring security and stability in the region with his Cypriot counterpart on Monday,.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan reviewed the prospects of advancing relations with Cyprus in a meeting in Abu Dhabi with Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, UAE state news agency WAM reported.
The two ministers also discussed the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of enhancing international cooperation to ensure fair and equitable access to the vaccine for every country in the world.
Christodoulides praised the UAE’s significant overall efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic and the efficiency of its adopted measures in mitigating the economic and social effects of the crisis.
During his visit to the UAE, the Cypriot minister also met with the Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC), Saqr Ghobash, accompanied with the Ambassador of Cyprus to the UAE, Yannis Michaelides.
During the meeting, both sides discussed ways of strengthening ties in multiple sectors, including in parliamentary areas.
Ghobash said that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on their parliamentary cooperation is required, in addition to reinforcing the role of joint parliamentary friendship committees.
A parliamentary friendship committee between the two countries will hold a meeting in the first quarter of 2021, Ghobash said, and stressed the importance of improving their coordination during global parliamentary events.
Christodoulides said that the UAE was a leading regional and international stature, noting that it is a strategic partner of his country.
He also conveyed the invitation of the President of the House of Representatives of Cyprus to Ghobash to visit Cyprus as head of a parliamentary delegation, to discuss ways of reinforcing their parliamentary ties.