WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The World Bank Group said on Wednesday it stands ready to assess Lebanon’s damage and needs after a devastating Beirut port explosion and will work to help mobilize public and private financing for reconstruction and recovery.
The World Bank said in a statement that it “would be also willing to reprogram existing resources and explore additional financing to support rebuilding lives and livelihoods of people impacted by this disaster.”
The Bank did not indicate which resources could be diverted to a blast recovery effort. In June, the multilateral development lender announced that it would reallocate US$40 million from an existing $120 million health program for Lebanon to help the country fight the coronavirus pandemic.
At least 135 people were killed and 5,000 were injured in Tuesday’s explosion at Beirut port, which also left up to 250,000 without homes fit to live in after shockwaves smashed building facades
It was also unclear on Wednesday whether the disaster will alter Lebanon’s difficult negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Since May, the IMF and Lebanon have been trying to work out a broader bailout package aimed at stemming a financial crisis that is seen as the biggest threat to the country’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war.
Those talks have bogged down amid disagreements over the scale of financial losses in Lebanon’s banking system.
The Fund has not made an official statement about the disaster beyond a tweet from Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva expressing her “deep sadness for the loss of lives, the injuries and the devastation” resulting from the explosion.
Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said that donor support for Lebanon in the wake of the disaster would likely be strong.
“Lebanon’s macro and debt situation will add to the overall urgency for international support,” said Morris, a former US Treasury international development official. “That said, it is highly unlikely that donor responses would serve as an alternative to reaching agreement with the IMF on a bailout.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday reaffirmed a “steadfast” but unspecific commitment to help Lebanon’s people
By David Lawder
Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Richard Pullin
Image: People walk past damaged buildings and vehicles following Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon August 5, 2020. (REUTERS/Carmen Yahchouchi)