The President of the Council of Ministers Sad Hariri sponsored this afternoon the official launch of the National Poverty Targeting Program (NPTP) scale up. The ceremony took place at the Sabra Cooperative in Tarik Jdide, in the presence of the Minister of Social Affairs Richard Koyoumjian, the Head of the European Union delegation to Lebanon, Ambassador Christina Lassen, the German Ambassador to Lebanon Jorg Berglin, the World Food Programme Lebanon Director Abdallah Al-Wardat, beneficiaries of the program and a large number of citizens.
At the onset, the German Ambassador said: It is a pleasure to be here today with all of you, the Lebanese Government, WFP, the European Union and Germany to be able to announce a scale up of our support to the Lebanese National Poverty Targeting Program. With this scale up, additional 27 thousand vulnerable Lebanese will profit from better access to food.
The immediate effect of this support will be better food security for poor Lebanese families, especially children and youth. But the impact goes wider. Children who don’t go on with school has much better chance to learn. Youth can have proper education for their future jobs and do not have to work at an early age to contribute to the family income. Women will be empowered as managers of the budget. The Lebanese economy profits from the increased spending especially in WFP certified shops like this one here, where 55% of the money is spent for Lebanese products.
Our common support for this program has an ultimate goal: to lift people out of poverty. With our support to the NPTP, we contribute to eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities in line with the agenda 2030. I am very glad that the European Union will come on board and we can join forces. We Germany stand to our strong commitment for the NPTP and therefore intend to pledge additional 10 million Euros. Let me close by thanking the Prime Minister’s office, the Minister of Social Affairs and the World Food Program for an excellent cooperation in making this project a success.
For her part, Ambassador Lassen said: Very nice to be here this afternoon. It is always beautiful to be at the Serail or convenient to be at some hotel, but I think it made a lot of sense to come out here today and announce together the scaling up of the National Poverty Targeting Program that, as my colleague Ambassador Berglin just said, is supported by the European Union and Germany. I think during my four years now in Lebanon I have often been impressed by Lebanon’s very famous resilience in the face of so many crises, conflicts and challenges. We know and we hear about so many strong, brave, creative and entrepreneurial Lebanese, but this only enforces the need to help those who are less fortunate. The most vulnerable Lebanese society also needs a helping hand, and that is why we are very happy that the Lebanese government has over the past decade built the National Poverty Targeting Program as one of the most important tools that this country has at its disposal to combat poverty and ensure that more people can become economically active and lead a dignified life.
Of course the shop that we are visiting today is part of this program, a nation-wide system of more than five hundred shops that ensures that the ten thousand more vulnerable Lebanese households can purchase essential food items each month using an electronic card.
She added: Today we are happy to announce, as Ambassador Berglin just said, that the European Union and Germany are offering extra support to this program. It is a specific answer from our side to what the Prime Minister asked for last year at the Brussels II Conference, to support this very important program. Thanks to this support that we are announcing today, the number of people benefitting from this social safety net will be increased by 50%. This means that the Lebanese benefiting from this particular support will increase from 58 000 to 85 000.
So it is a really important increase. This means that thousands of more Lebanese families will begin to see small improvements in their lives as this e-card gives the families the flexibility to have cash to buy in these shops the kind of foods they need. This means that, once the basic needs are being taken care of, they can start spending money on other things like education, school equipment, paying rent or health care. I think it is really important to just know that the cash being spent here today is spent in Lebanese shops so this also means that it is somehow contributing to the Lebanese economy.
The financial contribution alone is not enough and this is why we are extremely happy to work with the Minister of Social Affairs and add to this project a component that is supposed to really scale up this program and introduce some new measures so that the people benefiting from this program can seek economic opportunities. This year is the fortieth year of the European Union presence in Lebanon. Europe will stand with Lebanon in good and bad times and to illustrate that, since 2012, we actually increased our support to this country seven times. What we do today complements everything we are doing in addressing the present needs whether education, healthcare, social services, economic development and now of course hopefully much more infrastructure development.
For his part, Minister Koyoumjian thanked the European Union, the World Bank, the World Food Organization and the German government for everything they are providing to support the poorest families. He said: This ceremony is not the beginning, it is a continuation of your support, so that more citizens can benefit from this program”.
He added: “Our meeting today is to tell the Lebanese people that the Ministry of Social Affairs, under the guidance of Prime Minister Hariri, continues to support the National Poverty Targeting Program NPTP, despite all what has been said recently and the government’s austerity policy. We emphasize our commitment to this program, with the support of the international organizations and the donor countries. Almost 44 000 families benefit from this program, on the level of health, education and food. 10 000 families were benefitting from this card, and today we raised the number of beneficiaries to about 15 000 families. I thank the European Union and the German government for this continuous support. I hope it will be the beginning of further cooperation. “
He concluded: “I would like to reiterate our commitment, along with Prime Minister Hariri, to improving the conditions of the Lebanese citizens, despite all the crises we are experiencing. We are committed to give hope to the Lebanese, improve their lives, and implement social justice, based on our adherence to the happiness and health of the Lebanese.
At the end, Prime Minister Hariri thanked the European Union, the German government and the World Bank. He said: “This program started in 2009 or 2010. Our contribution as a government was $ 28.7 million, the contribution of the German government amounted to more than $ 50 million, and now it added Euros 10 million. The European Union now contributed with Euros 25 million. I thank you, and I believe that this program is one of the most important programs we are implementing. “
He added: “I would like to thank the international community, the European Union, Germany, the Minister of Social Affairs and the Director of the World Food Organization for everything they are doing. This program covers the poorest people, and their percentage is 8 percent which means that 240 000 persons suffer from extreme poverty. We used to assist 58,000 of them. With the contributions we received today, we will increase the number of people benefiting from the program to 85,000. We must support the Ministry of Social Affairs in implementing this program and intensify the pumping of funds into the program, because it helps the Lebanese citizen. Today, we added a new thing to it, which is to allow these citizens to get out of their poverty and enter schools, professions and the business world. This means that we do not only try to feed the persons or give them cards, but also to improve the standard of living of citizens living in extreme poverty and provide them with education in vocational and other programs. This is one of the most important humanitarian programs for me, because we as Lebanese should help each other, and certainly, everyone can donate to this program. “
Hariri toured the store, met with beneficiary families and listened to their demands and needs.
Source: National News Agency