The World Bank has approved a $30 million soft loan aimed at supporting a government initiative to improve access to basic services in impoverishedparts of the country.
“The Social Protection and Promotion Project approved by the World Bank Board of Directors will expand the coverage of Lebanon’s National Poverty Targeting Program from 93,900 to 160,700 people over the next five years,” the World Bank said in a statement over the weekend.
The $30 million loan will mature in 30 years and will have an 18-year grace period, according the World Bank’s website.
The loan aims to strengthen the capacity of the Social Affairs Ministry and targets 200 ministry-run social development centers, helping them to provide better services, the statement said.
“This involves the establishment of a national Community Social Development program that is transparent, efficient and accountable to its users,” the World Bank added.
The program will provide grants to small community-based projects, the statement said, adding that the initiative would ease poverty through boosting income and work skills.
“Transparent, participatory and well-targeted social safety nets in which communities have a voice and can build opportunities for themselves are key to addressing poverty and regional disparities,” Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Country director, was quoted as saying.
While Lebanon’s poverty rates are comparable to other middle-income countries, disparities in living conditions remain acute, the World Bank statement added.
The lack of community development and social safety net initiatives further complicates the situation, it said.
“The World Bank’s engagement on the community development front in Lebanon started in 2000,”said Haneen Sayed, World Bank Human Development coordinator for Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
“The program will draw on this decade-long engagement and lessons learned from other community development experiences in Lebanon and around the world,” Sayed added.
In a highly critical study released last month, the World Bank said Lebanon needs to generate around 20,000 additional jobs per year over the next decade, transform its economy into a productive model and overhaul social protection systems.