BEIRUT: There is an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line in Lebanon, said the director of the World Bank’s Mashreq Department, which covers Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Iran.
Saroj Kumar Jha stressed the “necessity to take into consideration the needs of poorer sections of society in any program that would be set by the Lebanese government.”
Dr. Bashir Ismat, a professor of development studies and an expert at the Social Affairs Ministry, told Arab News: “The rate of people living in poverty has increased to 40 percent, and might even reach 50 or 70 percent if the state and Lebanese banks file for bankruptcy.”
Zuhair Berro, head of the Consumer Protection Association, told Arab News that the current crisis in Lebanon is “unprecedented, especially that prices have increased by 40 percent in the last three months.”
He expressed fears of a further deterioration in the economy, adding that even before the crisis, prices in Lebanon were already 30 percent higher than in neighboring countries.
“The financial crisis has exposed this monopoly system” in Lebanon’s economy, he said. “Speculation might totally erode the value of the Lebanese pound.”
Ismat said: “The World Bank is negotiating with the Lebanese government to provide it with loans dedicated to social safety nets.”
Berro said “the political class doesn’t have any solution” to the crisis, adding: “The former government stepped down and left the bank owners in control of the Lebanese pound. In addition, the statement of the new government didn’t include serious solutions. We’re heading toward total chaos, and we need remedies for the causes of the crisis.”
Meanwhile, protesters returned to the streets over the weekend and organized sit-ins in front of the Interior Ministry, the Banque du Liban (Central Bank) and Riad El-Solh Square opposite Parliament and the government headquarters.