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Cash card launched to help vulnerable Lebanese families

A man shops inside a supermarket in Beirut, Lebanon, September 8, 2021. (Reuters)
A man shops inside a supermarket in Beirut, Lebanon, September 8, 2021. (Reuters)
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10 Sep 2021 01:09:04 GMT9
10 Sep 2021 01:09:04 GMT9
  • The value of the card will range between $93 and $126, paid through cash transfers
  • “Families will obtain the card regardless of their sectarian or political affiliation,” said Raoul Nehme

Najia Houssari

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker government on Thursday announced the launch of cash cards for needy families.

The registration process for the card was launched in the presence of, among others, Ramzi Moucharafieh, Lebanon’s caretaker minister of social affairs.

The registration period has been set between Sept. 15 and Oct. 31. The deadline may be extended until the end of 2021 for those who have not yet secured an identity card.

Some 700,000 Lebanese families are expected to benefit from the card, which aims to help needy families survive until concrete solutions to the economic crisis are found.

Since late 2019, Lebanon has been facing an unprecedented economic collapse, which the World Bank has classified as among the world’s worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.

Over half of Lebanon’s population is below the poverty line as the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 percent of its value against the dollar.

According to Moucharafieh, this temporary card, valid for one year, will provide some support to citizens but will not solve the real issue — the result of failed social policies over the past 30 years.

“We’re lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness,” he said.

Lebanon’s caretaker economy minister Raoul Nehme speaks during a news conference as they announce the launch of cash cards for families in need, in Beirut, Lebanon September 9, 2021. (Reuters)

Moucharafieh denied claims that it served as an electoral card. “People can file complaints if there are ever card-holders who are not entitled to it.”

The value of the card will range between $93 and $126, paid through cash transfers, either in dollars or in Lebanese pounds according to the black market exchange rate.

Moucharafieh said that a family of five was entitled to $25 per member under the age of 65, and those over 65 were entitled to $40 a month.

The card will not include families whose income exceeds $10,000 per year, nor whose bank deposits exceed $10,000, nor families whose house rent exceeds $3,500 annually, nor families who own two registered cars with model dates of 2017 or later, nor families who have two domestic workers.

If a family employs a domestic worker, it is only entitled to the card if the worker is there to take care of people with special needs or the elderly.

In addition to the cash card program, there are two parallel programs for other families classified according to other types of poverty. One is funded by the World Bank and dedicated to supporting families living in extreme poverty, and there is also a program funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and dedicated to supporting the most vulnerable families.

“Families will obtain the card regardless of their sectarian or political affiliation,” said Raoul Nehme, acting minister of economy.

“The platform will automatically determine the individuals who are eligible or not eligible to obtain the card. No human intervention is possible; the platform will classify everyone, and anyone who benefits from another support program will be automatically excluded,” Nehme said.

The platform will be supervised by the Central Inspection Authority. Its president, Judge George Auguste Attia, said: “The platform is based on control standards and the principles of distributive justice, accountability, data security and privacy, as well as transparency.”

For 13 months, politicians have failed to form a rescue government to implement reforms required by the international community to help Lebanon, due to the dispute over the blocking third in the government.

On Wednesday, Walid Jumblatt, the head of the Progressive Socialist Party, tweeted: “The Taliban formed a government. Be like the Taliban and assume your responsibilities to ensure the citizens’ security, livelihood and health. You claim to know everything based on a logic that rejects any pluralism.”

Meanwhile, protests are continuing due to the financial hardship that the population is experiencing amid fuel shortages and ever-rising black market prices.

On Thursday, several drivers blocked a road in the southern city of Sidon with burning tires, while the northern Akkar region witnessed many protests on Wednesday.

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