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Thursday, October 28, 2021

PM Diab presents Qatar with plan to assist crises-hit Lebanon

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The plan was presented as Lebanon grapples with an economic crisis exacerbated by the Beirut blast and the coronavirus pandemic.

Lebanon’s Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab presented Qatar with a plan to help the his country contain damage from current crises, local news reported.

The first part of the plan involves issuing ration cards for at least 750,000 Lebanese families living below the poverty line to create “a safety net” that would rationalise subsidies for food and commodities, Diab said in an interview with Qatar-based Al-Sharq.

“The goal since the October Revolution of 2019 has been to alleviate the burden on the Lebanese community across several aspects, such as food basket, medicine, gasoline prices for cars, diesel for heating and gas for domestic consumption,” he told Al-Sharq.

The value of the proposed ration cards would be valued at $1.8 million a month, ranging between $80-to-$160 per month for each family for a year.

“The cards are worth about $920 million at a rate of $75 million per month. With this card, people can better cope with the rationing of subsidies and high prices while reducing the sums spent by the Central Bank of Lebanon,” he said.

Read also: Diab warns of Lebanon’s ‘total collapse’ during Qatar visit

The Lebanese official said the second part of the plan includes the provision of fuel in five-year instalments to help the country with its current fuel crisis. The fuel shortage has led to power cuts in the capital Beirut and its surrounding suburbs, leaving residents without electricity for more than 15 hours per day.

“We seek to help Qatar in the field through in-kind assistance rather than financial. Lebanon will then pay it back after five years,” he said.

Diab said that Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani ordered the revision of the proposed plan to lay down the appropriate mechanisms for providing assistance.

“I have faith in Qatar’s role in helping the people of Lebanon to exit this crisis, and its decision in this holy month will be a historic one. I am confident that Qatar, which has stood by Lebanon in all historical milestones, will stand by its people in the darkest social and living conditions,” said Diab.

Diab landed in Doha earlier this week to discuss plans to ease the suffering of Lebanon’s people amid ongoing and multi-faceted crises.

Earlier this month, Lebanon’s caretaker finance minister Ghazi Wazni warned that his country will run out of money to fund basic imports by the end of May, adding that delays in figuring out a plan to reduce subsidies are costing $500 million a month.

The country is also running out of foreign reserves with officials rationing the remaining money and the currency losing most of its value since late 2019.

To date, the Lebanese currency has lost around 90% of its value in the black market and dollar deposits are still locked up.

A lack of leadership, following a government resignation in response to the deadly Beirut blast on August 4th, has accelerated a severe economic crisis that has seen Beirut drown in debt, banking, financial and fiscal issues.

This is Lebanon’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.


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