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governmentDecember 9, 2020

Diab Says 'Medicines, Wheat' are Essential Living Needs

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab clarified Tuesday that the government has no plans to lift subsidies from the import of essential goods, but rather more to rationalize their financing.

“The caretaker government had no intention to lift subsidies, but rather our directive since the beginning was to rationalize subsidies,” on the import of essential goods like wheat and medicine, he said.

Diab emphasized that “we consider the basic living needs like medicine and wheat a red line” that must not be tampered with.

Diab’s comments came during a second ministerial meeting dedicated to discussing the issue of the subsidization of imported essential goods amid the severe financial and economic crisis in the country.

But the meetings chaired by Diab Monday and Tuesday are only meant to provide “recommendations” on the matter as requested by the parliament.

Diab reportedly refuses to convene the cabinet in its caretaker capacity because he is not willing to shoulder responsibility for new government decisions after being 'pushed' into a resignation.

“We are trying to rationalize subsidies in order to preserve our foreign reserves as much as possible,” said Diab.

The PM said they held a “series of workshops to involve all related sectors in order to reach the best solution,' adding that 'several years of bad policies in Lebanon have brought the country to its difficult economic and financial situation today.”

Lebanon is mired in the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. It defaulted on paying back its debt for the first time in March, and the local currency has lost nearly 80% of its value amid hyperinflation, soaring poverty, and unemployment. Talks with the International Monetary Fund on a bailout package have stalled since July.

Since the local currency's collapse, the central bank has been using its depleting reserves to support imports of fuel, wheat and medicine.