IMF Should Prioritize Human Rights In Lebanon Loan Negotiations

As poverty increases, inflation soars and unemployment soars, Lebanon faces the worst economic crisis in its history. Last week the government started formal negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to discuss a plan to save the economy and ask around 10 billion dollars aid dollars.

Millions of people in Lebanon are already in trouble to pay for food, shelter and other basic rights due to the double blow of an economic crisis and the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the absence of a functioning social safety net and poor governance have left the majority dependent on a corrupt and sectarian society “Spoil the system” for access to basic services, including employment, education and health care. Any economic reform must protect the economic rights of people and address these underlying problems.

Lebanon has already received four multi-million dollar subsidized aid packages and loans since the end of its civil war in 1990, but the benefits have never been shared equitably. The country remains one of the the most unequal in the world, with 55% of national income concentrated in the richest 10%.

The IMF will undoubtedly seek to reduce Lebanon’s debt, currently at 170% of its GDP, as well as reducing government spending and increasing revenues. But the costs of these reforms should not fall on the country’s poorest by cutting spending on social services and making essentials unaffordable. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Bank estimated that poverty rates in Lebanon would rise to 50 percent in 2020, and inflation has dramatically increased the price of basic necessities such as food, medicine and utilities.

In particular, new tax measures should be progressive in nature and not exacerbate inequalities and increase the cost of living in a rights-infringing manner. Any reduction in subsidies to the electricity sector, which represents 40 percent of Lebanon’s debt, should be preceded by a comprehensive reform plan ensuring that the most marginalized can still access electricity, which is essential for the enjoyment of a multitude of fundamental rights, such as food, housing and an adequate standard of living .

IMF recommendations should encourage public spending in social services such as education, health care, and poverty reduction programs, while supporting public revenue by improving tax collection infrastructure and adopting policies. anti-corruption measures.

The consolidation of Lebanon’s balance sheets must not come at the expense of rights.

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