Beirut: Lebanon’s parliament on Wednesday approved cash payments for poor families, to cost $556 million a year, planned as a step that would allow the curbing of a $6 billion subsidy programme for basic goods.
Lebanon is battling a deep financial crisis, dubbed by the World Bank as one of the worst depressions of modern history.
The government introduced a subsidy programme last year to finance the import of basic goods such as wheat, fuel and medicine through drawing down on foreign reserves.
Shortages of essential items such as medicine and fuel have worsened in the past month as the central bank all but ran out of funds to finance the programme.
Some hospitals have been postponing elective surgeries to save on vital medical supplies such as anaesthetics, and fuel shortages have forced motorists to queue for hours to get barely any gasoline.
The government last week effectively cut fuel subsidies by using a weaker exchange rate of the Lebanese pound to the dollar to finance new imports through the central bank’s mandatory reserves.