BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon’s caretaker minister of social affairs on Thursday announced the launch of cash cards for over 500,000 families, a planned step to further curb a $6 billion subsidy programme that has heavily depleted foreign reserves.
Lebanon’s financial crisis has been described 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% of the population into poverty.
“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 labour and also from the IMF’s special drawing rights known as SDRs,” minister Ramzi Moucharafieh said.
The government introduced a subsidy programme financing the import of basic goods such as wheat, fuel and medicine last year. Critics said it was bloated, ill-managed and wasteful, and it is now being phased out.
Moucharafieh said the cash card, which will give each recipient family around $93 a month, was designed to reach those most in need and prevent waste,
Parliament approved the cash payments, estimated to cost around $556 million, in June.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; editing by Jason Neely and Kevin Liffey)