World Bank report provides snapshot of growing poverty, widening regional gaps in Lebanon |



Poverty in Lebanon tripled over the course of a decade during which the small Arab country slid into a protracted financial crisis, the World Bank said on Thursday.

The percentage of people in Lebanon living below the poverty line rose from 12 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2022, the bank said in a report based on surveys conducted in five of the country’s eight governorates.

The data provided the most detailed snapshot to date on the economic circumstances of the country’s population since the start of the financial meltdown in 2019, although World Bank officials acknowledged it was incomplete as surveyors were not given access to three governorates in the south and east of the country.

The findings showed stark differences in poverty levels between different areas of the country and between Lebanese citizens and the country’s large population of Syrian refugees.

In the Beirut governorate, in contrast to the rest of the country, poverty actually declined from four percent to two percent of the population during the decade surveyed, while in the largely neglected Akkar region in the north, the rate increased from 22 percent to 62 percent.

Among Lebanese surveyed, the poverty rate in 2022 was 33 percent, while among Syrians it reached 87 percent. While the survey found an increase in the percentage of Lebanese citizens working in unskilled jobs like agriculture and construction, it found that most Lebanese still work in skilled jobs while the majority of Syrians do unskilled labour.

The report also measured “multidimensional poverty,” which takes into account access to services like electricity and education as well as income, finding that some 73 percent of Lebanese and 100 percent of non-Lebanese residents of the country qualify as poor under this metric.

Beginning in late 2019, Lebanon’s currency collapsed, while inflation skyrocketed and the country’s GDP plummeted. For many Lebanese life savings evaporated.

Since reaching a preliminary agreement with the IMF in 2022, Lebanese officials have made limited progress on reforms required to clinch the deal, including restructuring the ailing banking sector.

An IMF delegation visiting Beirut this week found that that the measures introduced “fall short of what is needed to enable a recovery from the crisis.”

It noted that reforms to “governance, transparency and accountability” remain “limited” and that without an overhaul of the banking sector, the “cash and informal economy will continue to grow, raising significant regulatory and supervisory concerns.”

The World Bank has estimated that the cash economy makes up 46 percent of the country’s GDP, as Lebanese distrustful of banks in the wake of the crisis have sought to deal in hard currency.

The flourishing cash economy has created fertile ground for money-laundering and led to concerns that Lebanon could be placed on the Paris-based watchdog Financial Action Task Force’s “grey list” of countries with a high risk of money laundering and terrorism financing.

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