Qatar Conditions Aid to Lebanon on Formation of Government
(Bloomberg) -- Qatar won’t give Lebanon any aid unless it swiftly forms a new government to manage its worst economic crisis in decades, its foreign minister said during a visit to Beirut.
“When a government is formed, Qatar is ready to look at all options and formulate an economic program that serves the interest of the Lebanese people and meets certain criteria,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told reporters after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in the capital.
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who’s been tasked with forming a new cabinet, is in Paris and won’t meet the Qatari official.
Lebanon’s government resigned after a massive explosion in August killed more than 200 people and devastated large areas of the capital. Efforts to form a new cabinet have been deadlocked ever since as political factions bicker over portfolios, paralyzing efforts to enact economic reforms and secure billions of dollars in support from the International Monetary Fund and others.
An initiative by former colonial power France to lift Lebanon out of the impasse has yet to yield results.
Sheikh Mohammed will assess the need for further aid amid a new wave of Covid-19 that’s filling Lebanese hospitals already struggling with the impact of the explosion and currency chaos that’s disrupted access to drugs and equipment, a spokesman said. He’ll also review progress made with $50 million of Qatari aid already pledged since the Beirut port explosion, the spokesman said.
In 2019, gas-rich Qatar pledged to buy $500 million in Lebanese government bonds to help support one of the world’s most indebted countries.
Paralyzed by political division and weakened by decades of corruption, Lebanon has failed to stabilize an economy in free-fall since a banking crisis forced the government to default on its $30 billion international debt pile in March. The currency lost more than 80% of its value last year, fueling runaway inflation that’s wiped out salaries and savings and plunged families into poverty.
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