Lebanon relaunches support programs for the vulnerable

Beneficiaries will be selected according to transparent criteria ‘to secure the basic requirements for a decent life’

  
People shop ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Sidon, Lebanon, April 10, 2021.

People shop ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Sidon, Lebanon, April 10, 2021.

REUTERS/Aziz Taher
BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced on Wednesday the launch of the ration card platform and the emergency social safety net project.

Funded and supported by the World Bank and the UN, the programs are intended to help the most vulnerable in Lebanon.

The ration card platform had faltered after it was announced by Hassan Diab’s resigned government on Sept. 9 due to funding issues and objections by the World Bank.

The platform was supposed to be up before subsidies on fuel were lifted to limit protests.

In his announcement, Mikati addressed the obstruction of Cabinet sessions since Oct. 12: “If some people have the right to revolt in the street and get angry, then those who were and still are in power have no right to shirk responsibility and blame those who are currently trying to fight to save the country.”

He noted that during the diplomatic meetings he held in the country and overseas, one expression was constantly repeated: “Help yourselves, and we will help you.” If anything, this indicates the extent of the responsibility of all Lebanese officials and leaders to cooperate for Lebanon to move forward, he explained.

Mikati noted: “The beneficiaries of the two projects will be selected according to transparent criteria to secure the basic requirements for a decent life. The two-month registration phase will be closely monitored to prevent any exploitation, after which the payment process will begin early next year with a retroactive effect from January 2022.”

According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, 25 percent of Lebanese suffer from extreme poverty, while 70 percent are struggling to make ends meet, with the middle class almost becoming extinct amid Lebanon’s economic and financial collapse.

The ministry is currently assisting 36,000 families suffering from extreme poverty by giving them a $25 food card and a further $15 for each family member. The children of these families are enrolled in public schools and receive free primary healthcare, thanks to EU funding. The ministry aims to start supporting 75,000 families.

“In the first phase, we will start implementing the social safety net program, which covers 150,000 Lebanese families and 87,000 children enrolled in public schools,” said Minister of Social Affairs Hector Hajjar.

He added: “These programs are not the solution; they are rather temporary support to help citizens survive until economic recovery is initiated.”

Mikati said that he had issued a decision “to form a technical committee to review the security and cyber aspects of the IMPACT platform and its subsidiary webpages, headed by the minister of interior, to prevent any data manipulation and ensure user privacy.”

Hajjar expected around 20,000 people to register on the platform daily.

More families are falling under the poverty line in Lebanon, a World Bank report revealed.

The share of the Lebanese population under the international poverty line is estimated to have risen by 13 percentage points in 2020 and is expected to further increase by as much as 28 percentage points by the end of 2021; amounting to 1.5 million Lebanese.

Meanwhile, 780,000 Syrian refugees are under the poverty line, and their share is estimated to have risen by 39 percentage points in 2020 and 52 percentage points in 2021.

The report also tackled the successive financial crises that have afflicted Lebanon, noting that “the Lebanese government’s hands are tied in terms of providing social assistance to citizens and residents alike.”

International institutions fear further repercussions as Lebanon is being assailed by compounded crises for the third year in a row, which may lead to widespread chaos and disturb the fragile security stability, especially in light of the significant rise in the prices of goods, fuel, transportation, medicine, electricity from generators, and other daily life necessities.

“Radical reforms are essential to achieve recovery and social protection programs are very helpful in mitigating the impact of multiple crises,” the World Bank said.

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