Lebanon’s interim Minister of Social Affairs announced the launch of cash cards for over 500,000 families on Thursday, a strategic step to add and curb a $6 billion subsidy program that has heavily exhausted foreign reserves
Lebanon’s financial disaster has been labeled by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) estimates the crisis has so far propelled 78 percent of the population into poverty.
Social affairs minister Ramzi Mousharafieh said, “It is true that an exceptional item has been allocated in the budget for this, but we are also trying to get funding from a World Bank loan targeting infrastructure and labor and also from the IMF’s special drawing rights known as SDRs.”
A subsidy program financing the import of basic goods such as wheat, fuel, and medicine was introduced by the government last year. Critics said it was bloated, ill-managed and wasteful.
Mousharafieh said the cash cards, which will give each recipient family around $93 a month, were designed to reach those most in need and prevent waste.
The Lebanese parliament approved the cash payments, estimated to cost around $556 million, in June.