Islam News – The removal of subsidies in Lebanon without preserving the vulnerable would lead to a serious social catastrophe, U.N agencies warned on Monday. And as Reuters noted, there would be no parachute to soften the blow.
With Lebanon deep in financial crisis, the central bank has been subsidising basic goods by providing hard currency to importers at the old exchange rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar even as the currency fell by 80% from the peg.
Central bank governor Riad Salameh said last week the subsidies could be kept for only two more months, urging the state should come up with a plan.
“The impact of removing price subsidies on the country’s most vulnerable households will be tremendous and yet there is almost nothing in place to help soften the fall,” the UNICEF’S Lebanon country representative and the ILO’s regional director wrote in an op-ed.
“It is critical to realise that for Lebanon to fly off another cliff now, without first putting in place an inclusive system of social guarantees, would be to inflict a social catastrophe on the country’s most vulnerable people, sacrificing their wellbeing, and that of the country as a whole, for many years to come,” they wrote.
The universal way in which Lebanon has been subsidising basic goods including fuel, wheat and medicine has been widely criticised, because it does not target those most in need.
A rough analysis shows up to 80% of the subsidies may actually be benefiting the wealthiest 50% with only 20% going to the poorer half, UNICEF Representative Yukie Mokuo and ILO Regional Director Ruba Jaradat wrote in their op-ed.
The caretaker government is due to meet Salameh on Monday to discuss the subsidies.
The World Bank has said poverty is likely to continue to worsen and engulf more than half the population by 2021.