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Poverty in Lebanon more than tripled in past decade: World Bank

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Report shows country has slid into a protracted financial crisis, with Syrian refugee population hit particularly hard.

Poverty in Lebanon has more than tripled over the past 10 years, with the overall proportion of the country’s population living below the poverty line soaring to 44 percent, according to the World Bank.

The bank’s report, released on Thursday, was conducted in five of the country’s eight governorates, showing that poverty rose from 12 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2022, with stark differences between different areas of the country.

In Beirut, poverty actually declined from 4 to 2 percent of the population over the decade, while in the largely neglected Akkar region in the north, the rate increased from 22 to 62 percent.

The report also revealed glaring differences between Lebanese citizens and the country’s large population of Syrian refugees. While the poverty rate among Lebanese was 33 percent in 2022, it reached 87 percent among Syrians that same year.

However, when including factors such as access to electricity and education as well as income – so-called “multidimensional poverty” – researchers found that 73 percent of Lebanese and 100 percent of non-Lebanese residents qualified as poor.

The report provided the most comprehensive snapshot of poverty levels to date since the onset of the economic crisis in 2019, which saw the currency collapse, while inflation skyrocketed and the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) plummeted.

Many Lebanese found that the value of their life savings had evaporated. The situation has since got worse, with the currency losing about 95 percent of its value and banks locking most depositors out of their savings.

Many see an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout as the only path out of the crisis, but since reaching a preliminary agreement with the IMF in 2022, Lebanese officials have made limited progress on reforms required to clinch the deal.

Visiting Beirut this week, an IMF delegation found that “some progress has been made on monetary and fiscal reforms”. But, the institution said in a statement, measures “fall short of what is needed to enable a recovery from the crisis”.

Ernesto Ramirez Rigo, the head of the visiting IMF mission, said that Lebanon’s ongoing refugee crisis, fighting with Israel at its southern border and the spillover from the war in Gaza were exacerbating an already dire economic situation.

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