Beirut: Lebanon’s government agreed Monday to pay tens of thousands of poor families’ cash assistance in US dollars from a World Bank loan as the country’s economic crisis deepens.
The decision comes as Lebanon is expected to end subsidies for fuel by the end of next month, a move that is expected to lead to sharp increases in prices of almost all products.
Assistance in US dollars
Lebanon’s parliament approved in March a $246 million loan from the World Bank that would provide assistance for more than 160,000 families. However, the move was delayed over the government’s insistence on paying it in Lebanese pounds.
Saroj Kumar Jha, the World Bank regional-director, tweeted that he received a letter from Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni confirming the beneficiaries will be paid in US dollars.
The US dollar is trading at about 20,000 pounds on the black market, negatively affecting the purchasing power of many in the tiny country of 6 million people, including a million Syrian refugees. More than half of Lebanon’s population live in poverty.
It was not immediately clear how much money each of the 161,257 families - or about 800,000 people - will receive. The government was earlier planning to give each family 800,000 Lebanese pounds a month for one year with the dollar calculated at 6,240 pounds.
According to a World Bank statement in January, a significant portion of the loan - nearly $200 million - will go toward providing cash assistance to around 786,000 individuals through a pre-paid electronic card.