by Dana Halawi
BEIRUT, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Lebanon will soon face social instability should the cabinet fail to adopt a proper rescue plan amid a complete paralysis in the country caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, experts said.
Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, Lebanon had been mired in the worst economic and financial crisis in the country's history, with the closure of thousands of businesses and the lay-off of thousands of people, resulting in nationwide protests that wreaked havoc on tourism, the mainspring of Lebanon's revenues.
During the current COVID-19 outbreak, the cabinet has forced shops and businesses to shut down and obliged people to stay home in a bid to curb the pandemic in the country.
Lebanese Economy Minister Raoul Nehme announced on Tuesday that the number of the most vulnerable families in Lebanon can reach as many as 400,000.
The minister voiced his doubts about the cabinet's capacity to help such a big number of people amid deteriorating financial conditions in the country.
Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Ramzi Moucharafieh announced on Wednesday that his ministry has allocated 18 billion Lebanese pounds (12 million U.S. dollars) for the purchase of food and medicine to support over 100,000 vulnerable families who have lost their daily income amid the outbreak of COVID-19.
"We will be ready within a week to start with this plan which will be implemented through mayors, municipalities and security forces," Moucharafieh said, adding this falls in the interest of the country and its stability.
Pierre Khoury, dean of the Faculty of Business and Insurance at the Lebanese German University, warned that even those who have money in banks may need food and medicine support because of the restrictions imposed by banks on the money withdrawals.
"We may reach a point where the government may have to distribute food and medicine for everyone," Khoury told Xinhua.
The expert said a long-term plan by the cabinet is needed to support the large number of casual workers in Lebanon in case the situation deteriorates further.
"These people cannot be left to their destiny because they would be ready to commit all kinds of crimes for their own survival," Khoury noted.
The Lebanese expert highlighted the need to create a solid and quick cooperation system among mayors, municipalities, associations and all stakeholders to collect information about the most vulnerable families in Lebanon and provide them with essential products such as food and medicine.
"We do not have social planning and municipalities are corrupt. The municipalities have already generated money from people and they can help with this money if they are really willing to do it," Hilal Kashan, chair of the Political Studies Department at the American University of Beirut, told Xinhua.
While Khashan emphasized the need for an urgent rescue plan, he did not voice optimism about the cabinet's capacity to work properly on such a strategy.
"It (the country) won't be able to help all needy citizens," Khashan said.