Lebanon raises price of bread amid crippling economic crisis

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Lebanon’s economy ministry on Tuesday raised the price of subsidized bread for the fifth time in a year amid the tiny country’s worsening economic and financial crisis.

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The ministry said the reason behind the latest increase is that the central bank has ended sugar subsidies, which adds to the cost of bread production.

Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history — one that the World Bank has said is likely to rank as one of the worst the world has seen in the past 150 years.

The World Bank said in a report this month that Lebanon’s gross domestic product is projected to contract 9.5 percent in 2021, after shrinking by 20.3 percent in 2020 and 6.7 percent the year before.

Lebanon’s currency has lost 90 percent of its value, breaking a record low earlier this month of 15,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on the black market. The official exchange rate remains 1,507 pounds to the dollar.

The central bank has been cutting back on subsidies as foreign currency reserves have dropped from $30 billion at the start of the crisis in October 2019, to nearly $15 billion at the present time.

Most Lebanese have seen their purchase power drop and more than half the population now lives below the poverty line. There are severe shortages in gasoline, medicines and other vital products. Electricity cuts last for much of the day.

The government in June last year raised the price of flatbread, a staple in Lebanon, by more than 30 percent — for the first time in a decade. It has since raised the price three times before Tuesday.

The Ministry of Economy says 910 grams (2 pounds) of bread will be sold for 3,250 pounds. It used to be sold for 2,750 pounds before the latest increase.

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