US official links long-term aid to reform in Lebanon

Following his visit to Lebanon, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale told reporters that further economic assistance will be linked to IMF reform package.

al-monitor US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale (2-L) and US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea (L), accompanied by Lebanese army officers, tour the site of the explosion that hit the seaport of the Lebanese capital Beirut, on Aug. 15, 2020. Photo by NABIL MOUNZER/AFP via Getty Images.

Aug 20, 2020

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale told reporters "long term assistance" to Lebanon will depend on a government program of "reform and change."

Hale, who visited Beirut last week, is the highest ranking US official to visit Beirut since the Aug. 4 blast, which killed more than 170 people, injured thousands more and plunged Lebanon into a fresh political crisis. The United States has offered more than $17 million in initial relief aid, but like other donor governments, wants to see the small Mediterranean country enact a long list of policy changes before releasing further funds. 

The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned in the wake of ongoing protests demanding accountability for the explosion, which officials blame on a stockpile of highly explosive ammonium nitrate stored improperly at Lebanon’s most vital port. 

Asked what type of reform the US is expecting, Hale referred to "overdue fiscal and economic measures" that have been proposed by the IMF in longstanding discussions with the Lebanese government. 

Hale commented on his conversations with Lebanese civil society and their frustrations with the present government leaders.

The devastation in the Lebanese capital came as the country was already dealing with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. Before the blast, the World Bank estimated that 45% of the country could fall below the poverty line if current trends continue.

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