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Poverty Crisis in Lebanon: Rising Poverty, Multidimensional Deprivation and Economic Challenges

Over the past decade, poverty in Lebanon has tripled, with the percentage of people living below the poverty line rising from 12 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2022, according to a World Bank report. The small Mediterranean nation has been dealing with a protracted financial crisis, which saw its currency collapse in 2019, inflation soar and GDP plummet, effectively wiping out the life savings of many citizens .

The report, based on surveys conducted in five of Lebanon's eight governorates, provides a detailed snapshot of the country's economic circumstances since the crisis began. However, the data is acknowledged to be incomplete as surveyors were not granted access to three southern and eastern governorates.

The findings reveal large disparities in poverty levels between different regions and between Lebanese citizens and the large Syrian refugee population. In Beirut governorate, poverty actually decreased from 4% to 2% of the population during the decade surveyed. In contrast, in the heavily neglected Akkar region in the north, the poverty rate rose from 22% to 62%. Among Lebanese respondents, the poverty rate in 2022 was 33%, while among Syrians it reached a staggering 87%.

The report also measured “multidimensional poverty,” which considers access to services such as electricity and education, as well as income. It found that 73% of Lebanese and 100% of non-Lebanese residents qualified as poor under this metric.

Although many initially saw an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout as the only way out of the crisis, progress on necessary reforms, including restructuring the ailing banking sector, has been limited since reach a preliminary agreement with the IMF by 2022. An IMF delegation visiting Beirut recently noted that some progress has been made on monetary and fiscal reforms, but the measures fall short of what is needed for recovery .

The World Bank estimates that the cash economy, which has grown due to distrust in banks, constitutes 46% of the country's GDP. This thriving cash economy has raised concerns about money laundering and the possibility of Lebanon being placed on the Financial Action Task Force's “grey list” of countries at high risk of money laundering and terrorist financing .

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