Araji Says Pivotal Meeting with World Bank on Drug Subsidies on Friday


Head of the Health Parliamentary Committee MP Assem Araji said Wednesday that a meeting with the World Bank is expected later this week to discuss the risks of stopping subsidies on medicines in Lebanon, in light of a mounting shortage of drugs.

After declaring that foreign reserves are running low, and the Central Bank won't be able to keep up subsidies, including on drugs, concerns mount among Lebanese that prices of drugs would soar amid a sharp devaluation of the local currency.

Araji said the “committee was unable to take any decision during its meeting today on whether” the least harmful decision was “to stop subsidies on all drugs or on specific ones.”

The MP revealed that the Parliamentary Health Committee, based on his proposal, will hold an online video meeting on Friday with the World Bank, to demand continuation of drug support. “Otherwise the health institutions will collapse and the price of medicine will increase five-fold,” Araji warned.

Officials and pharmacists say a shortage in medicines was exacerbated by panic buying and hoarding after the Central Bank governor said government won't be able to keep up subsidies on drugs, fuel and wheat.

Lebanese now scour the country and beyond for crucial medications.

It’s the newest stage in the economic collapse of this country of 5 million, once a regional hub for banking, real estate and medical services.

More than half the population has been pushed into poverty and people’s savings have lost value. Public debt is crippling, and the local currency plunged, losing nearly 80% of its value. The health sector is buckling under the financial strain and coronavirus pandemic.

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