Hezbollah chief says Lebanon won’t oppose IMF aid under ‘reasonable conditions’

FILE PHOTO: The IMF logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington. (REUTERS)

Hezbollah does not oppose foreign aid to Lebanon, even from the International Monetary Fund, as long as the help does not impose conditions that harm the national interest, its leader said on Friday. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington. (REUTERS)

In a televised speech, Hassan Nasrallah said his Shi’ite movement, which backs the government, refused conditions “that would make the country explode”. He said it was against raising the value-added tax (VAT), particularly for the poor. 

“If the conditions do not breach Lebanese sovereignty, or at least do not contradict Lebanese law… Any assistance within logical conditions is possible. There is no problem with this,” Nasrallah said. 

Lebanon declared last week it could not pay debt maturities as it faces an unprecedented financial crisis that has weakened the local currency, hiked prices and fueled unrest. 

Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni told Reuters on Thursday that the country’s crisis plan would meet IMF recommendations and be ready in weeks. Wazni said any recourse to an IMF program must have political agreement and terms that do not cause suffering. 

The heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah has said it rejects letting the IMF manage Lebanon’s crisis. 

The IMF on Thursday urged Lebanon to quickly implement reforms to stabilise the economy.

“Given the severity of economic conditions in Lebanon, it’s important that the government designs and implements promptly a comprehensive package of reforms to effectively address the economic challenges and improve Lebanon’s economic prospects,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters.

While the country has not requested aid from the Washington-based crisis lender, “We stand ready… to assist the authorities in those efforts.”

Lebanon’s debt burden is now equivalent to nearly 170 percent of its gross domestic product.

Despite a series of crises, the country had never before defaulted, but in recent months it has grappled with its worst economic turmoil since the 1975-1990 civil war.