The U.S. will continue to provide humanitarian support for the Lebanese people affected by a deadly and devastating explosion at the port of Beirut in early August, a top State Department official said Wednesday, but will not underwrite the current government until real reforms take place.
David Hale, the under-secretary for political affairs, spoke about Lebanese government corruption and incompetence in a briefing with reporters following a recent trip to the region.
“We will not be providing that kind of long-term assistance until we see a government that’s actually capable of reform and change,” Hale said.
He said while the U.S. remains committed to addressing the immediate humanitarian crisis — the U.S. has so far provided $18 million in emergency assistance — it will not provide a bailout for the Lebanese government.
BREAKING: Undersecretary David Hale says No bailout for #Lebanon without serious/major reforms.
Told @TheNationalUAE he discussed Maritime Demarcation with Israel during Beirut visit https://t.co/tSZGVbL4EC
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 19, 2020
He further criticized the government, saying that Lebanon’s leaders “have been ignoring their responsibility to meet the needs of the people and have resisted the kind of deep, fundamental reforms that are needed.”
He added that “we can’t fix that from the outside. Lebanese leaders have to demonstrate the political will and commitment to that and that was my main message.”
Lebanon has been viewed as a country on the brink of collapse even before the Aug. 4 blast amid an economic crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
BREAKING: US Undersecretary David Hale arrives in #Beirut Lebanon and first stop is Protests’ square.
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 13, 2020
The Lebanese government resigned in the aftermath of the explosion and is in a caretaker role until new political leaders are chosen.
Hale, who has traveled to the country multiple times over the course of his career since 1988, said he was overwhelmed by the devastation and that the anger and frustration among the public was “extremely potent,” according to The Hill.
He added that reforms needed include combating corruption, improving transparency, restructuring public debt, fixing the electrical system and ending the practice of sending customs revenues at the ports to political parties instead of the government, among others.