- Lebanon’s medicine importers said on Sunday they had run out of hundreds of essential drugs and warned of more shortages
- The local currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value on the black market
LONDON: Lebanon’s central bank said on Monday it would pay up to $400 million to finance imports of essential medicine and flour.
Lebanon’s medicine importers said on Sunday they had run out of hundreds of essential drugs and warned of more shortages, as the country’s financial crisis batters the health sector.
The Governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh, said the central bank “will pay the credits and invoices that will be submitted to the Banque du Liban by the banks and which are related to medicines, especially medicines for chronic and incurable diseases.”
The statement added that the payments would be made “in accordance with the priorities determined by the Ministry of Public Health based on the government’s decision on Friday, July 2, 2021, with an amount not exceeding $400 million.”
The statement said the payment “also covers other imports, including flour, to ensure respect for the mandatory investment ratio.”
Lebanese are grappling with a raft of shortages, including petrol, as the caretaker government discusses lifting subsidies it can no longer afford amid what the World Bank says is one of the world’s worst financial crises since the 1850s.
The local currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value on the black market, but the central bank had been providing importers with dollars at a much more favorable official rate to cover a large part of the cost of imported drugs.
Medicine “imports have almost completely ground to a halt over the past month,” the association of pharmaceuticals importers said in a statement on Sunday.
The syndicate had said the central bank has not released the promised dollars to pay suppliers abroad, who are owed more than $600 million in accumulated dues since December, and importers cannot obtain new lines of credit.
“Importing companies’ stocks of hundreds of medicines to treat chronic and incurable diseases have run out,” it warned.
“And hundreds more will run out through July if we cannot resume imports as soon as possible.”
On Thursday, President Michel Aoun said he had agreed with ministers and the central bank chief to “continue subsidising medication and medical supplies” selected by the health ministry according to priority.
(With AFP and Reuters)