DUBAI: Lebanon is the most vulnerable state in the MENA region, Minister of Economy and Trade Amin Salam has told CNN’s Becky Anderson during an interview.
One of the most pressing issues in the country is the lack of wheat supplies, Salam said. Lebanon lost its national reserves in the 2020 Beirut explosion, he added. “So, this created an additional layer of challenge to Lebanon because so far we’ve been using the private sector silos to store wheat.”
The country imports about 80 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine and has been “struggling most recently looking for new markets” that meet its qualifications, he said.
“In addition to the wheat, we’re having challenges that we’re concerned about two months from today that includes sunflower oil and sugar.”
Salam said that Lebanon has failed to recover from the inflationary pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Purchasing power is very low, and (there are) many other challenges including the big number of refugees per capita that we have in Lebanon — that adds another layer of challenge.”
Lebanon is now in talks with the international community to help recover its economy.
It is in discussion with several countries, including the US and France, over potential alternative markets for food products. “We are hoping that those countries will be able to support us with the supply chain,” Salam said.
The country is also working on a “major program” with the World Bank that is expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
“We are confident that the international community is still very supportive of Lebanon and does not want Lebanon to fall apart,” he added.
An IMF delegation is in Lebanon to reach an agreement over an economic rescue deal. “So far, everything is moving very positively. We’re hoping to have a staffing agreement in place soon, which puts the train on the tracks.”
Salam said that the country’s Central Bank is “not bankrupt.”
He added: “We know that our national reserves are at a very difficult place. But we are very confident that the IMF agreement will help Lebanon get out of its crisis.”