The pricing of Lebanese bread, the subsidies given, and the process for making these decisions reveals – yet again – the extent of corruption amidst the Lebanese government, the illegal marriage between the private sector and the decision-makers, and the glaring disrespect from the Lebanese MPs to their own citizens – disrespect because they regard us as children and fools.
In this article, Al-Akhbar reveals the story of bread pricing in Lebanon
Note how decisions are made:
– The Economy and Trade Minister Nicolas Nahhas meets with the head of the Bakery Owners Union to determine the pricing and subsidies. All in the name of ‘satisfying the consumer’. Together (MP and Private Sector) decide on what would be best for the poor.
– Their decision? To reduce the weight of the bread to 900 grams, as reported today by Al-Akhbar
What is missing from their decision?
The state currently subsidizes each ton of flour at LL70,000 (US$47). — [i.e.: The government will pay US$1,540,000 to flour mill owners at the end of April based on the LL70,000 (US$47) per ton subsidy.]
During the last furore concerning subsidies, several contradictory reports were released concerning the amount of wheat used in manufacturing Arabic bread.
The mills claimed that 90 percent of the wheat they import is used to make the subsidized bread. The bakery owners insist it is 30 percent. On the other hand, documented reports from social security put it at only 20 percent.
This wide discrepancy is an indicator of a huge waste of public funds used to subsidize flour. But that “detail” did not warrant even one official study of the quantity of wheat used in producing a loaf of bread, or the amount of profit for the bakeries and mills.
Yes, why conduct a study to determine if subsidies actually are assisting the poor… when the objective isn’t the efficient use of public funds or the assistance to the poor (38% of the country), but rather, further public subsidies to the rich!
And why be honest with the public at all – rather, simply pretend that the pricing of bread has remained stable and decrease the specifications of the bread!
On 21 February 2005, the government reduced the weight of a bread bag from 1,500 to 1,400g, keeping the price at LL1,500 (US$1). On May 17 of the following year, it reduced the weight to 1,300g, always keeping the same price.
At the end of 2006, it reduced the weight then again to 1,170g. On 6 June 2007, it became 1,120g and then 1,000g, where it remains today.
Between 2005 and 2007, the government reduced the weight of a bag of bread by 500g, amounting to a 33 percent decrease in only two years.
And what about the unions that claim to represent the workers? They are busy awaiting for the orders from their political leaders, who are either in bed with – or themselves are – the economic elite.
As Khaled Saghieh wrote (on his facebook status):
في حدا سرق رغيف من كل ربطة خبز بلبنان
There remain a small group of independent unions and workers. Protest this coming May 1 Tuesday in Lebanon!