As international pressure mounts on the Lebanese political class to take reformative action and save Lebanon from the worst, a British minister has warned that the country will face hunger if its officials continue stalling.
Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East James Cleverly said on Thursday that Lebanon is on the verge of not being able to feed itself.
The warning comes as the Lebanese suffer from the effects of hyperinflation and increasingly high poverty rates. These are expected to soon engulf more than half of the population, amid an unprecedented economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Cleverly called Lebanon’s crisis “a man-made problem which could have been prevented.”
“The most pressing danger is the risk to food security: Lebanon is on the verge of not being able to feed itself,” he said in a statement after meeting Lebanese officials in Beirut.
“Four months on from the blast, Lebanon is threatened by a silent tsunami. Lebanon’s leaders must act.”
Following the August 4th explosion, the Iraqi government donated thousands of tons of flour that were later found unsafely stored in a stadium in Beirut. The scandal shed further light on the mismanagement and corruption infesting the country.
To make matters worse, in the next couple of months, the central bank is expected to lift the subsidies on wheat and other basic commodities, in a move that would cause a “social explosion,” in the words of caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
In the statement, Minister Cleverly stressed that any end to subsidies would make things worse. “I reiterate my call to the leaders of Lebanon to do what is needed and deliver reforms,” he said, adding that the alternative “will be horrible.”