Lebanon Expects Deal With WB on Food Security

Lebanon Expects Deal With WB on Food Security
Lebanon Expects Deal With WB on Food Security

Lebanon is close to reaching an agreement with the World Bank (WB) in which the international agency would give the crisis-hit country a $150 million loan for food security and to stabilize bread prices for the next six months, the economy minister has said.

Amin Salam said talks with the International Monetary Fund were progressing in a positive way, AP reported on Wednesday.

"Work is ongoing and the train is moving. I am optimistic," Salam said in an interview with The Associated Press. He said the IMF is focusing on three sectors that are improving — electricity, transportation and high-speed internet — because they can help reactivate the whole economy.

Salam said the government does not have immediate plans to lift bread subsidies, especially for flour used in making flat Arabic bread, the main staple in Lebanon.

Lebanon is in the grip of a devastating economic crisis that has been described as one of the worst in modern history. It imports most of its wheat and has faced shortages over the past weeks as the war in Ukraine leads to increases in prices of oil and food products around the world.

There have also been concerns that the government might lift wheat subsidies as foreign currency reserves drop to critical levels at the central bank. Any lifting of subsidies would sharply increase the price of bread affecting the poor in the Mediterranean nation where more than three quarters of its 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees, now live in poverty.

"We are working with the World Bank to keep market stability for the next six months by getting $150 million," Salam said. He added that the deal with the World Bank will stabilize the price of bread and wheat until a ration card policy is in force so that people in need can benefit.

Salam added that subsidies cannot continue forever, especially for flour that is used for making pastries and sweets.  

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