Friday, November 19, 2021

Economic Misery in Lebanon

 In Lebanon, in the past year, poverty has tripled, and one in every four children in the country are skipping meals. 

The Lebanese pound (LP) has witnessed a devaluation exceeding 90%, dropping from 1,500 LP to the dollar to over 22,000 LP to the US dollar. 

At least half of the population is suffering in extreme ways because of this situation, experts say.

In Beirut, the UNICEF office reported that three out of 10 children go to bed hungry or skip meals.

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that food prices have gone up by 628 percent in just two years. According to Nassib Ghobril, chief economist for Lebanese Byblos Bank, the CPI rose by 144% in September 2021 compared with the same month in 2020, while it registered its 15th consecutive triple-digit increase since July 2020.

The prices of fresh or frozen cattle meat in Lebanon jumped by 118.6% in the period, constituting the highest increase in the price of this item in the region, reported Ghobril. In parallel, the price of bread and other manufactured articles sold went up by 32.8%, representing the third-highest increase in bread prices among MENA countries.

“The cumulative surge in inflation is due, in part, to the inability of authorities to monitor and contain retail prices, as well as to the deterioration of the Lebanese pound’s exchange rate on the parallel market, which has encouraged opportunistic wholesalers and retailers to raise the prices of consumer goods disproportionately,” Ghobril says. He adds that the smuggling of subsidised imported goods has resulted in shortages of these products locally, which also contributed to price increases. “Further, the emergence of an active black market for gasoline during the summer has put upward pressure on prices and inflation.”

Economist Kamal Hamal Hamdan explains that while there are no credible governmental statistics, at least 55% of the Lebanese population live under the poverty line.

“However, estimates actually point to 75% of the Lebanese population falling under the poverty line. This number goes up to 85% in extremely poor areas such as North Lebanon or the Baalback Hermel area,” points out Adib Nehme, a Lebanese development and poverty consultant.

Before the crisis, the wealthiest 10 percent of the population owned almost 70 percent of total wealth. Nehme underlines that around 73% of the Lebanese population earned 2.4 million LP per month before the crisis.

“If these people managed to keep their jobs despite Lebanon’s meltdown, this means that around three-quarters of the population earns around $120,” says Nehme. "One has to keep in mind that around 963 depositors own $23billion, that is not considering these people’s wealth in land and investments. There is growing polarisation because of concentration of wealth, with Lebanon’s economic collapse,” says Nehme.

Additionally, Hamdan underlines that around 60% of wage earners in the pre-crisis era contributed to 25% of the Lebanese GDP, which has worsened.

The financial crisis plaguing Lebanon has created further inequality. The richest and politically connected have been able to transfer their funds despite the unofficial capital control imposed by Lebanese banks.

Hunger, Desperation in Lebanon as Food Prices Rocket | Inter Press Service (

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

Medicine subsidies partially lifted, doctors at the government-run facility in the Lebanese capital fear the worst.

“We can expect a surge in deaths,” Dr Mahmoud Hassoun, the hospital’s chief medical officer, told Al Jazeera. “How can you treat a patient, when there is expensive medicine that you cannot provide?”