The president of food importers Hani Bohsali said several staple food items were withdrawn from the subsidy program of the Bank of Lebanon. Its governor Riad Salamé would also have refused to grant the lines of credit necessary for their importation into Lebanon.
Milk intended for children aged 1 to 3 years would be particularly concerned, specifies the representative of importers of food products. It will now be sold at unsubsidized prices.
This information comes at a time when importers of drugs or food products are strongly criticized locally, being accused of having built up large stocks benefiting from subsidies from the Bank of Lebanon and awaiting the end of this program in order to maximize their profits.
The cost of the subsidy program was $ 700 million during the period preceding the current crisis. It has fallen to $ 500 million currently, or $ 6 billion per year, of which $ 3 billion is for fuels alone. Questions also relate to the reality of the 16 billion dollars of gross reserves of the Bank of Lebanon mainly constituted by the sums available by the 15% of minimum reserves on bank deposits.
The establishment of a prepaid card program would however depend on the approval by the parliament since it would then be an annual loan for an amount of one billion dollars from the Bank of Lebanon against 6 currently. . This program would be aimed at 800,000 families now.
In fact, more than 75% of the population would be today living below the poverty line, that is to say on less than 6 dollars a day. The inflation rate would have even reached 155% during the year 2020, the prices of certain essential but not subsidized products having even reached an increase of 400%, while the Lebanese pound would have lost more than 90% of its value. since October 2019.
Last March, the outgoing Minister of Finance Ghazi Wazni, for his part, estimated that it would be a question of reducing the number of subsidized products from 300 to 100 products, reducing the subsidies granted to the purchase of fuels and drugs and introduce a ration card for 800,000 families, leading to an annual reduction in half of the current subsidies, which would drop from 6 to 3 billion dollars.
The establishment of a prepaid card program would, however, be subject to parliamentary approval.
The creation of this rescue net program to replace the subsidy program was adopted by the Lebanese parliament on March 12 and signed by the President of the Republic on April 8 before being published in the official journal.
This program aims to set up a prepaid payment card which would thus be given to households vulnerable to the economic crisis. They would thus receive 100,000 pounds per month per person for about a year, wanted the Bank of Lebanon while the World Bank had indicated that it required that these sums be made available at the real rate of the local currency.