Sunday July 31, 2022

Lebanese face long ‘insulting’ queues to buy bread

Lebanese face long ‘insulting’ queues to buy bread

A man and a woman walk out of a bakery with bags of subsidised flatbread in Beirut, Lebanon. AFP

In bankrupt Lebanon, Khalil Mansour has to queue for hours every day just to buy bread for his family and some days he can't afford any.

In a country which once boasted the nickname "Switzerland of the Middle East" for its thriving banking sector before financial crisis hit in 2019, the chronic shortage of the staple of the Lebanese diet has been hard to take.


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Lebanon defaulted on its national debt in 2020 and its currency has lost around 90 percent of its black market value.

The World Bank has branded the financial crisis one of the worst since the 19th century while the United Nations now considers four out five Lebanese to be living under the poverty line.

Lebanese face long ‘insulting’ queues to buy bread
A man walks out of a bakery clutching a bag of subsidised flatbread in Beirut, Lebanon on Friday. AFP

Faced with demands from international creditors for painful reforms in return for the release of new aid, the embattled government has been forced to end subsidies on most essential goods -- although not so far on wheat.

The price of subsidised bread has gone up, although by less than if there were no subsidy, but bakeries have started rationing the staple.

A bag of flat Arabic pitta-like bread now officially sells for 13,000 Lebanese pounds (43 US cents). On the black market it costs more than 30,000.

"Last week I went without bread for three days because I cannot afford to pay 30,000," said Mansour, 48.

Lebanese face long ‘insulting’ queues to buy bread
Many find the acute shortage of flatbread unbearable. AFP

For Mansour and most Lebanese, buying bread means standing for hours in long queues outside bakeries and sometimes, when their turn comes, the bakeries have run out of bread.

"Today I queued for three hours, yesterday two-and-a-half. What next?" Mansour said on Friday outside a Beirut bakery.

"I have to feed my family. What else can I do?" asked Mansour, who earns the equivalent of $50 a month working in a pastry shop.

Agence France-Presse

 

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