Lebanon to give welfare cards for poorest families

Lebanon to give welfare cards for poorest families
As Lebanon's population reels under the worst economic crisis ever, the caretaker government is looking into how it will finance a new welfare card that could help hundreds of thousands of the country's poorest families.
2 min read
25 May, 2021
Lebanese women hold placards as they protest during Mother's Day. [AFP/Getty]

Lebanon Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni signed an expedited bill Monday that will grant welfare cards for the country's most vulnerable families.

The subsidy system will benefit around 750,000 of Lebanon’s poorest families amid the country's worst-ever economic crisis, according to the General Supervisor of the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan at the Ministry of Social Affairs Asim Abi Ali.

Speaking to The New Arab’s sister site, Abi Ali explained that the amount allocated to each family will be specified by the finance and economy ministries, as well as the central bank, and linked to the prices of basic commodities.

"The procedures will be transparent... taking into account the level of income, marital status and the number of family members," Abi Ali said.

He noted that those with higher incomes, living abroad, or anyone dependent on an expatriate will not benefit from the card.

Analysts say that favouritism and clientelism are common in Lebanon when it comes to public services, with access often depending on political and other connections.

Sources in the finance ministry confirmed to The New Arab that financing the system will not come from Lebanon's remaining dollar reserves in the central bank and alternative sources of funding are being looked into.

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a televised interview that the financial welfare cards will amount to nearly $1 billion, and families will receive between 1 million to 3 million Lebanese pounds depending on the number of people in the households and their circumstances.

Lebanon's currency has continued to fall since late 2019 as the Central Bank’s dollar reserves quickly dried up, which the government used to subsidise essentials like fuel, flour and medications