Nearly 50 percent of Lebanon’s citizens are now below the poverty line while the country is on the verge of bankruptcy, Vice President of the World Bank Group for the Middle East and North Africa Ferid Belhaj told Al Arabiya.
Belhadj said that the bank offered to provide $246 million to support a social protection network for most vulnerable families if there is guaranteed transparency in delivering the fund to “those who deserve it.”
Lebanon is currently experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis caused by decades of corruption and mismanagement due to Lebanon’s sectarian system and political instability. The crisis was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and by a massive explosion at the Port of Beirut last August, which left 300,000 displaced, over 2,000 injured, and at least 200 dead.
The international community has called on the Lebanese political class to set aside sectarian and political divides and facilitate the formation of an independent government capable of conducting the reforms required to unlock badly needed aid.
Belhaj added that none of the economic reforms agreed upon with the Lebanese government and parliament had been implemented.
“The reforms we have discussed with Lebanon for years have not been implemented. This makes us question the trustworthiness of those in power,” Belhadj added.
He stressed the need to open the Middle East and North Africa region’s economies to the private sector.
“The coronavirus pandemic has led to high levels of debt globally to stimulate economies and support small businesses and health sectors, which is a positive thing and an investment in the economy, except in some countries that suffer from weak governance and mismanagement, such as Lebanon and Tunisia,” he added.