Robbed of Their Future – Who Will Make It Right?

The movie Capernaüm (“Chaos”) tells the story of Zain, a Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life. Ironically, Zain is played by Zain al-Rafeea, a Syrian refugee. In the Bible, Jesus moves from Nazareth to Capernaum at the beginning of his mission because the Nazarenes attempted to stone him when he began to preach in Nazareth. He escapes, but you know how that story ends…

These bits of information carry several messages and I’ll focus on these: the Lebanese can’t separate their fate from that of the Syrian refugees – those challenges must be solved for both peoples. Jesus had good news, the gospel, but it didn’t matter, his message of urgency and change was not welcome.

And so it is as the World Bank keeps ringing the alarms on how Lebanon’s disastrous leadership is abetting the collapse of the country, but to no avail. On June 1, it released the most recent Lebanon Economic Monitor entitled, “Lebanon Sinking to the Top 3,” an ironic twist on achieving something that is far from desirable, becoming perhaps the one of the worst economic crises in more than 150 years.

The report begins with a lucid and helpful summary of the more than 90 pages of analyses, charts, and special annexes that follow, worth reading, even skimming the bold face sentences that highlight the text. The many conditions that caused the current crisis are clear: the economic collapse, the pandemic, the Beirut blast, and mismanagement by the leadership cadre. Short-term solutions are also clear: stabilize the currency, build a reliable social safety net, strengthen humanitarian relief and assistance to small businesses, and tame the oligarchs from causing further damage. Each of these requires myriad actions by Lebanon’s leaders, none of which is forthcoming. The capital controls law is languishing in Parliament. Hyperinflation is eroding the value of humanitarian, social, and health services. And the party leaders are immune to sharing responsibility for moving Lebanon forward, only to the abyss.

According to Asharq Al-Awsat, “The bankrupt state is unable to settle many of its bills and Lebanon’s own energy minister, Raymond Ghajar, has warned that electricity supply was becoming critical and that the country could be plunged into total darkness by June’s end.” Illustrative of this failure was the notice from the Central Bank to the electricity company to come up with a plan to repay the government its $25 billion in past loans (out of $42+B), just another day in the debt-ridden country.

An editorial in The National placed the blame squarely on “A leadership vacuum that has seen politicians wrangle for months on end over control of various ministries, with seemingly little interest in actual policymaking, is both a cause and an amplifier of the crisis. Compounding it is Covid-19, as well as the fallout from last summer’s Beirut blast, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.” It went on: “The economic meltdown has made worse the political and sectarian fragmentation of the country, undermining an already-weak rule of law.”

This sentiment was echoed in the World Bank report which pointed out Lebanon’s status as a “Fragility, Conflict & Violence (FCV) State, and as such, the dire socio-economic conditions risk systemic national failings with regional and potentially global consequences.” Two of the consequences are obvious in the economic repercussions in Syria and the increase in extensive cross-border smuggling. The Report goes on to say, “This illustrates the magnitude of the economic depression that the country is enduring, with sadly no clear turning point on the horizon, given the disastrous deliberate policy inaction.”

It is hard to ignore how the elites are insulated from the worst of the currency manipulations. “The burden of the ongoing adjustment/deleveraging is regressive and concentrated on the smaller depositors, who lack other source of savings, the local labor force, that is paid in lira, and smaller businesses,” according to the report’s authors.

There is a section on the proposed 2021 budget that exposes the unrealistic approach being favored by the oligarchs. By ignoring that any projected savings are due to the decreased purchasing power of the currency accompanied by high inflation, its numbers are not credible. As the Report opines, “This predisposition can either (i) degrade the proposed budget’s creditability, due to expected social pressures and real costs resulting from the high inflationary environment; or, if forced through, (ii) further entrench the severe decline in purchasing power for another year.”

Regarding the need for a social safety net, the Report mentions that “The economic crisis and resulting rising in poverty raise an urgent need for social assistance. High levels of poverty can have a long-lasting impact on Lebanon’s human development and increase vulnerabilities across the lifecycle. Adequate social assistance will therefore be critical both in the short term to provide emergency relief, and in the medium-long term to improve resilience to shocks among vulnerable Lebanese.”

This lead to its conclusion that “The Government of Lebanon (GOL) needs to prioritize a comprehensive, consistent, and credible macroeconomic stabilization plan, the fiscal part of which should include a social safety net (SSN) component.” This was also one of the major points mentioned by Ambassador David Hale in his address to the MEI conference as a needed effort by the international community to stabilize Lebanon while needed reforms are implemented.

With the end of subsidies in sight, no apparent willingness to creatively stabilize the currency, and no movement to shrink the country’s budget, Lebanon’s governing class is running out of excuses. They must take needed steps toward reform or recuse themselves so that the hard work can begin.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.

A Moral Calling from the Pope to Lebanon’s Christian Leaders

And just like that, the Vatican is challenging Lebanon’s Christian leadership to do what’s best for Lebanon.

Most believe it would take a miracle, but maybe this is the beginning. After the noon prayer on Sunday, May 30, the Pope said “On July 1, I will meet in the Vatican with the main leaders of the Christian communities in Lebanon, for a day of reflection on the country’s worrying situation and to pray together for the gift of peace and stability.”

The “Christian communities” would be quite large if he includes the Orthodox and Protestant churches, other Catholics such as the Melkites, and the leader of the Maronite Catholic Church, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, who has been actively calling for an international conference to begin the process of reconciliation and healing in Lebanon, free from external interference.

With the subsidies due to expire sometime in June, the holdup in Parliament of a World Bank assistance package, and the continued deterioration of the country’s economy, Lebanon continues to be on the brink of extensive disruption.

The lira is in free fall at an official exchange rate on the government’s platform of 12,000 to the dollar and approaching 12,800 on the informal exchange market, while imports are still priced somewhere between the government rate of 1,500 and the bank rate at 3,900 lira to the dollar.

Confused yet? Think of how hard it is for the Lebanese to cope daily with the uncertainty of access to money to pay for essential services. Even when they will regain access to their bank deposits by the end of June, as promised by the Central Bank, it will be limited at a rate that favors the banking sector.

The story about the Pope’s initiative was reported in the 961 which noted that “Earlier this week, Pope Francis sent a letter to President Michel Aoun hoping that the ‘Spirit of Wisdom’ would support Aoun in rescuing Lebanon. It is stipulated that Pope Francis would seek to unite the Christian leaders that have been politically divided and lead them towards working together to saving Lebanon as a top priority.”

Wisdom is not in short supply, only its acceptance. The path forward is clear. The IMF and the international community are waiting for a government that will serve the people and not the interests of a few. The people of Lebanon and the resident refugee population are suffering as their health and well-being become increasingly precarious.

Other calamities and disasters are pulling the world’s attention away from a country whose leaders have lost the sense of urgency and responsibility to unite even on the basic necessities of recovery and renewal.

As the Pope said on Sunday, “the meeting with Lebanon’s Christian leaders would be an opportunity to ‘pray together for the gift of peace and stability.’”

With perhaps a hint of irony, another report mentioned that “The Argentine pontiff has also picked up the metaphor from his predecessor describing Lebanon ‘as the message’ when it comes to coexistence, tolerance, and respect among people of all faiths.”

The suffering of the Lebanese, across all sects, strengthens his message and highlights the sadness of those around the world whose hearts feel Lebanon’s sorrow.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/26/21

DAILY NEWS


Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Briefing
Yesterday Najat Rochdi, Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, briefed the UN Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security on Lebanon’s state of crisis and the effect it is having on women. She urged that in order for recovery efforts in Lebanon to be sustainable, they must be inclusive of women. Rochdi further recognized the prominent role of women both in protests and political movements, and local peacebuilding and mediation efforts. [Naharnet]

S&P Global Report Says Bail-In for Depositors Likely
In a new report S&P Global said there is likely to be a “bail-in” for Lebanese bank depositors in order for the banking sector to absorb the costs of financial restructuring. This might look like paying depositors below-market exchange rates or converting their deposits into equity, the report said. [Al Arabiya] On Monday central bank governor Riad Salameh said depositors’ money was safe and announced a plan that would release $50,000 per deposited in June. [Reuters]

Nasrallah Comments on Aggression in Jerusalem
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech yesterday, his first since a ceasefire was called between Israel and Hamas last week. He commented on hostilities in Jerusalem and said that any aggression on Jerusalem’s holy sites would mean regional war. [Reuters]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Bring the Planners Back! Displacement-Triggered Patterns of Urbanization and City Responses
Mona Fawaz, Mona Harb, Carla Al-Hage
The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/25/21

DAILY NEWS


Salameh Discusses New Dollar Withdrawal Plan
In an interview with Al Hadath yesterday, central bank governor Riad Salameh discussed a new plan that will allow depositors to finally access their US dollars in Lebanese banks. Starting in June, depositors will be able to withdraw $50,000 which means $25,000 in US dollar bills and the other $25,000 in Lebanese pounds at the market exchange rate. [Al Arabiya]

UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon Running Out of Funds
Amid Lebanon’s economic crises, the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon has run out of funding. The tribunal that was set up to prosecute perpetrators of PM Rafik Hariri’s assassination in 2005 is in financial trouble which puts future trials at risk. [Reuters]

Political Talks Resume Upon Hariri’s Return to Beirut
Talks have resumed between political leaders regarding the formation of a government upon Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s return to Beirut. Sources say Hariri and Free Patriotic Movement officials showed “flexibility” after a conversation with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. [Naharnet] In a statement from the UN office in Beirut, Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Najat Rochdi urged the formation of a government that is “competent, empowered, and representative of its people.” [The Daily Star]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Standing Up For Lebanon – Recent US Words and Actions
Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Voices of Healing: the Work of the Near East Foundation to Support Business Recovery

ATFL has been gradually shifting its focus from humanitarian relief centered on medical supplies to supporting organizations involved in support efforts for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). We convene regular meetings to discuss opportunities, obstacles, and experiences that enrich the group’s understanding of how to most effectively support community businesses in Beirut and beyond. Several organizations in the group are well known: Anera, the Rene Moawad Foundation, the Near East Foundation, and Mercy Corps. Others are Lebanese groups that target specific community needs in mental health, the aging, and rural communities.

This series, Voices of Healing, puts a spotlight on those organizations that want to tell their stories and demonstrate that hope is still alive among the people of Lebanon. This information was provided by Andrea Crowley of the Near East Foundation (NEF).

NEAR EAST FOUNDATION – BEIRUT RAPID LIVELIHOODS RECOVERY PROGRAM

The devastating and destructive August 4, 2020 Beirut Port Explosion took lives, destroyed businesses, and displaced thousands. Critical community needs, such as hospitals, schools, businesses and homes, faced widespread damage. Eight months on from the explosion its impacts have been lost amid the overwhelming needs surrounding the health crisis, a worsening and severe economic crisis, and a protracted refuge crisis – causing a dangerous physical, psychological, and economic strain on the people of Lebanon.

Soon after the explosion, the Near East Foundation (www.neareast.org) mobilized with local partners to launch a rapid livelihoods recovery program, building onto its ongoing program in Lebanon, to provide aid to individuals and micro/small businesses in three highly impacted and vulnerable Beirut neighborhoods: Bachoura, Bourj Hammoud, and Karantina. With support from the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, Elsa & Peter Soderberg Charitable Foundation, and private funders, the Rapid Livelihoods Recovery Project addresses the nexus of relief and recovery, supporting safe shelter rehabilitation, small business recovery, and employment.

NEF has helped 130 micro/small businesses to recover losses and resume business activities through cash assistance and guidance focused on business adaptation and recovery. This includes support for mini markets, grocery stores, a butchery, mobile phone vendors, tailors, appliance stores, a pharmacy, and salons.

The cash assistance provided is unconditional, allowing flexibility for business owners to make decisions regarding the repairs of their business, recouping assets, and meeting the needs of their families.

NEF is also supporting 130 skilled workers to recover lost materials and secure employment, linking them to repair projects of vulnerable homes and businesses in the target areas using “cash for work” to subsidize their income while providing repair services free of charge. 100% of the skilled workers supported are the sole providers for their families.

Shouwshan in her upholstery shop in Beirut. Her shop was damaged, including the front door, walls, and display stands. She received a grant from NEF to help with the needed repairs so she could safely resume business operation. Image: NEF

 

George owns a mini mart in the Bourj Hammoud neighborhood of Beirut. He used his grant to help replenish products that were lost during the explosion so he could start selling as soon as he could. Image: NEF

Due to heightened currency fluctuation in Lebanon, grant distribution was temporarily paused earlier this year. During that time, the NEF teams conducted a rapid security risk assessment to determine when it would be safe to continue financial grant support and were able to resume grant support in early April 2021. In Beirut, grants are disbursed in USD to protect against the continued devaluation of the LBP. The NEF team continues to closely monitor the currency situation and its impact on the safety of project participants and project resources.

NEF conducts mid-term and endline assessments to measure impact to ensure impactful and responsive interventions that address both immediate and longer-term needs. Data collected also helps to determine if project participants under the Beirut Rapid Livelihoods Recovery project could be eligible to receive additional support from NEF’s broader livelihoods programs in Lebanon.

Critical to NEF’s approach is ensuring that coordination, complementarity, and transparency is prioritized to avoid duplication and effective use of resources. NEF’s response is closely coordinated with relevant stakeholders, working groups, and in partnership with local community organizations and other NGOs. This includes partnership and coordination with the American Task Force on Lebanon, SHIELD (a local livelihoods NGO), ANERA, ACTED, American University of Beirut – Urban Lab, Mercy Corps, the Danish Refugee Council, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), and the Bourj Hammoud Municipality in addition to the broader Referral Information Management System (RIMS).

NEF’s experience and impact in Lebanon dates back to 1918, when NEF first launched programs there focused on improving the long-term wellbeing of vulnerable Lebanese through technical and financial assistance to improve education, income, agriculture and food security, rural development, and access to finance. In recent years, NEF’s work in Lebanon has focused on providing livelihoods support for vulnerable Lebanese and refugees in poor communities (with a focus on women and youth), helping them to access the tools and resources to engage in safe ways to earn an income, support their families, and improve their lives.

NEF channels assistance through Siraj Centers, community-based livelihood hubs that offer technical training and essential resources – geared toward social and economic empowerment – for crises-affected people to recover their income and strengthen their local economies. NEF has Siraj Centers in Akkar, Tripoli, and Bekaa, and in 2021 opened a new location in northern Beirut. Last year, NEF expanded its business support services to include an accessible online learning platform – Siraj Digital (www.sirajdigital.com). Through Siraj Digital NEF will provide nonfinancial services tailored to business recovery and adaptation, addressing impacts of the Beirut port explosion and ongoing economic impacts of the health, financial, and refugee crises.

Since 2016, NEF has helped to launch 3,900 businesses and directly support over 18,000 people in Lebanon with support from Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and private funders. And while sustainable livelihood support is often seen as costly, a 2021 impact and learning assessment of NEF programs from 2016-2020 revealed a 2.6 return on investment, with revenue from project-supported businesses generating 28 billion LBP.

This video of two NEF-supported Lebanese entrepreneurs, Hanan and Hayat, provide an example of this work: https://vimeo.com/447133436

In early April 2021, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Ambassador Dorothy Shea, visited one of NEF’s Siraj Centers in Akkar in recognition of NEF’s long-time partnership with the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).

US Ambassador to Lebanon, Amb. Dorothy Shea, visits a NEF Siraj Center in April 2021. Image: NEF

NEF’s Rapid Livelihoods Recovery Project and broader program in Lebanon continues to evolve to facilitate safe pathways to livelihoods recovery, resilience, and ultimately self-reliance for vulnerable and marginalized people through inclusive, tailored, and community-driven initiatives.

For more information on NEF’s work in Lebanon, please contact Andrea Crowley, Director of Partnerships & Philanthropy, at acrowley@neareast.org.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/11/21

DAILY NEWS


Maritime Border Talks Paused, Waiting on Lebanon
US-led maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel were paused last week after President Aoun ordered the Lebanese delegation to halt their participation. Aoun took issue with the mediation’s starting point, which was to begin at the border lines already registered with the UN, namely the dispute over 860 square kilometers. [Reuters] There is a decree in Lebanon however approved by the caretaker prime minister and ministers of defense and public works that would extend the disputed area to 1,430 sq. km. But Aoun has yet to sign and approve the decree therefore it hasn’t been submitted to the UN. Regarding next steps the US says the ball is now in Lebanon’s court. [Al Arabiya]

Government Plans on Subsidies Start Panic Buying in Supermarkets
Government plans to remove subsidies on basic food items such as fuel, wheat, and medicine have stirred panic buying among Lebanese at supermarkets. It has caused prices of meat and chicken to spike and on Sunday cars lined up outside of gas stations to store up. Caretaker Prime Minister Diab has said the government will not lift subsidies before ration cards for Lebanese families are approved. [The Daily Star]

Drug Raid in Baalbek
Today the Lebanese army raided a drug manufacturing plan in Baalbek and confiscated drugs, machins and equipment used for narcotic production. [Naharnet]

Over 40 Tons of Fish Dead in Qaraoun Lake
Over 40 tons of dead fish have shown up on the banks of Qaraoun Lake in southern Lebanon. Activists and locals blame pollution coming from the Litani River that carries waste from industrial factories and sewage systems. The authorities don’t recognize this as the cause and say it may be disease.

Watch here

OPINION & ANALYSIS


FOCUS LEBANON: LIFE is Helping the Lebanese Help Themselves
Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

FOCUS LEBANON: LIFE is Helping the Lebanese Help Themselves

LIFE Lebanon is not your typical professional association. In addition to its highly qualified and energetic financial, banking, technology, and consulting members, it has worked tirelessly to support Lebanon’s humanitarian and reconstruction needs through its vast network of overseas Lebanese professionals. LIFE partnered with MEI and ATFL to produce critical analyses of the rationale for strong US-Lebanon relations and is instrumental in supporting the newly launched Lebanon program at MEI. In addition, its members support scholarship programs, mentoring, training, job placement, and have raised more than $9 million in humanitarian relief for Lebanon.

As overseas Lebanese, they represent the classic emigrant dream – go overseas, do well, help your country of origin. And they continually strive to do more. This blog will focus on one of LIFE’s most recent efforts to help small businesses, the heartbeat of Lebanon’s economy, to recover and thrive. There are two programs currently being implemented.

Facebook Donation to LIFE
In February 2021, LIFE received a $300,000 donation from Facebook to support vulnerable businesses in Lebanon. Using their experience and network on the ground, LIFE will allocate the donation to 100–150 small and medium enterprises (SMEs), helping them and the economy grow in these unprecedented times. 3QA, a Lebanon-based third sector quality assurance organization, will offer support during the vetting and proposal stages and will undertake monitoring and reporting on behalf of LIFE.

Working with 22 project partners, SMEs are being selected based on: impact on the community; vulnerability level; geographical spread; sector diversity; and gender balance.

Accelerate Beirut
More than 10,000 SMEs were severely damaged during the Beirut explosion and many more are still suffering from its economic impact. Accelerate Beirut is an initiative launched as a collaboration between LIFE, Alia Atieh, and a team of consultants from Bain & Company. The objective is to support Lebanese SMEs by establishing connections and enabling collaborations between local SMEs and global corporations. These collaborations take the form of financial contributions, in-kind donations, partnerships and mentorship programs, or technical assistance from large companies.

Achievements to date:
• The rehabilitation of 5 restaurants in Mar Mikhael working with Nusaned through a $50,000 donation from the Accor Hotels Group
• The Sisley-d’Ornano Foundation donated $24,000 to fashion designer Sandra Mansour
• Eres donated 500 items of clothing to Stand for Women beneficiaries
• L’Oréal Levant are working on a collaboration with Sarah’s Bag
• House of Zejd and Joyau d’Olive are two other SMEs who have received $20,000 of funding

Georgy Rahayel, Founder of Le Joyau D’olive, one of the small businesses who received funding through Accelerate Beirut.
Le Joyau D’olive is a Lebanese artisanal biodegradable vegan soap made of virgin olive and essential oils.

Georgy Rahayel, founder of Le Joyau D’Olive: “Accelerate Beirut has been an eye-opening experience as it took our thought process to a new level. It has exposed us to the right people who can help us scale our venture.

 

Sarah Beydoun, founder of Sarah’s Bag at her workshop. Through Accelerate Beirut, Sarah’s Bag worked on a collaboration with L’Oréal Levant

Sarah Beydoun, founder of Sarah’s Bag: “I really think it’s a brilliant idea and a creative solution, asking big international corporations to support local businesses each in their own field of expertise.”

 

House of Zejd builds on two centuries of family heritage of pressing locally sourced olives from the northern hilly Beino landscape. This is another SME who received funding and support through Accelerate Beirut

Youssef Fares, General Manager, House of Zejd: “Thank you Accelerate Beirut for this great initiative bringing Lebanese products and know-how to the forefront and for the valuable contribution to our brand visibility in target export markets.”

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.

Subsidies Mean Survival for the Majority of Lebanese

In his latest message to the Parliament, Caretaker Prime Minister Diab emphasized the imminent danger facing Lebanon due to the lack of funds to sustain subsidies. While the Parliament sought to hobble the requirements of the $256 million pledged by the World Bank to benefit their interests and obscure distribution accountability, the lira continued to plunge in value. Now hyperinflation has set in, and the number of poor has skyrocketed.

While Hezbollah is well placed to care for many of the basic needs of its constituents, there is an overall deficit in social, health, fuel, and food for most Lebanese regardless of sect. One story reported that “Lebanon has been spending up to $7 billion a year on subsidies, including a total of $5 billion spent on subsidizing goods that benefit Lebanese families [and that] the government was looking to lower that number to $1.2 billion for subsidies.”

There are three types of subsidies in the Lebanese system. The largest by far is to the electricity company, at around $1.5-2 billion a year for the purchase of generator fuels. After this comes a list of some 300-400 (down from 600) essential food and living supplies for the people through subsidized imports. Finally, there are payments under the social security system for those who have paid into the government program.

What boggles the mind is that about 75% of the Lebanese population is now in need of financial assistance to cope with the economic catastrophe. This represents some 750,000-800,000 FAMILIES in dire straits.

The Caretaker Prime Minister’s goal is clear: “As I have mentioned, Lebanon would be cutting our spending on goods by $3.8 billion. Moreover, the money that Lebanon was depleting on subsidies and imports will be put back in the economy inside the country via the ration card as nearly 3 million Lebanese will be benefiting from it to buy goods and other material from the internal market.”

He added, “Without a government that can implement reforms, the future looks bleak. It is unacceptable to be in a political deadlock at a time when Lebanon is going through social, economic, and financial crises.”

The scope and severity of the poverty may be news, but the reality of subsidies ending this month has been known since at least early April. Caretaker Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni said he was informed at that time by the Central Bank Governor that “Lebanon’s mandatory reserves to fund basic imports” would run out by the end of May. He also warned that “delays in launching a plan to reduce subsidies are costing the country $500 million a month.”

A group of ministers, prominent business people, and economists has presented a plan to President Aoun that would eliminate general subsidies and replace them with cash cards to be targeted to specific families based on transparent criteria. According to Aoun’s media office, the paper suggested two strategies. It said the government should “enforce a number of urgent measures for 12 months, addressing gasoline, fuel oil, gas, medicine, wheat, electricity, and the rest of products; as well as working on reducing the public sector’s expenditures in dollars and shifting the current subsidy policy into providing direct cash assistance, in line with the measures to gradually lift subsidies.” They said that if subsidies are lifted and the ration cards adopted, $6 billion will be saved from the annual expenditure.

What is quite sad is that under the formula being proposed, which deviates a bit from the World Bank estimates, is that the annual subsidy for a family of four is $1645, hardly a significant amount, which is indicative of the disastrous condition of the economy. The ration card is considered an alternative to the subsidies for basic commodities that the Central Bank provides today.

Diab has asked that the Central Bank or the Parliament fund the rationing card project rather than going through the government as printing more money would add to inflationary pressures since the lira lacks a fixed value. Another consequential factor is that the Ministry of Social Affairs has yet to develop a database of potential recipients, meaning that many people will not receive the card at all.

It’s time for the Parliament to recall that next spring there will be an election, and people will remember who came to their aid at the most depressing period in their lives.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/03/21

DAILY NEWS


Two Brothers Suspected in Smuggling Attempt Arrested
Al Arabiya

NGO Submits Legal Complaint Against BDL Governor
France 24

Maritime Border Talks Set to Resume Tomorrow
Reuters

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Breaking the Cycle: A New American Approach to Lebanon
Nicholas Noe
European University Institute

A Failing State: What’s Next For Lebanon?
JINSA National Security Digest Podcast

Lebanon’s Disabled Community is Dying
Adam Nasser
Diplomatic Courier

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 04/30/21

DAILY NEWS


France Imposes Sanctions on Lebanese Political Leaders
France has begun imposing sanctions on Lebanese politicians for their role in obstructing government formation and/or their involvement in corruption. The list of names has not been released publicly yet, but French diplomats say people on it are being made aware. [Al Jazeera] French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will travel to Beirut next week for a two-day visit. [Naharnet]

Christian Parties Call for Parliament’s Resignation
Several Christian parties are calling for the resignation of Parliament. Leaders of the Independence Movement, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb Party, and the National Liberation Party have reiterated the need for Lebanon’s sovereignty to be upheld, and accused the Hezbollah-run Parliament of dominating Lebanon. [Arab News]

BDL Gives 95 Percent Of Required Material to Alvarez
Today is Banque du Liban’s deadline to handover data and information requested by Alvarez & Marsal to conduct a forensic audit. A source close to the government said that BDL has given 95 percent of the information required. The remaining 5 percent is said to hold information on Lebanese commercial bank accounts. [The Daily Star]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


The Future of the Bekaa Valley, Up and Coming CBD Capital
Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.