Le­banon risks los­ing out on aid if Cab­i­net not formed

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON -

BEIRUT: Le­banon risks wast­ing the in­ter­na­tional sup­port that peaked at the CEDRE con­fer­ence if there is fur­ther de­lay in form­ing a gov­ern­ment, France’s am­bas­sador to Le­banon warned Fri­day.

Le­banon’s econ­omy and in­fra­struc­ture have been in cri­sis for years, a sit­u­a­tion ex­ac­er­bated by the Syr­ian con­flict and re­sult­ing in­flux of refugees. The CEDRE con­fer­ence, held in Paris in April, saw 50 coun­tries and or­ga­ni­za­tions pledge over $11 bil­lion in soft loans to fi­nance in­vest­ment and in­fra­struc­ture projects in Le­banon. But the funds’ dis­burse­ment is con­tin­gent on a se­ries of eco­nomic re­forms Le­banon com­mit­ted to, which have been put on hold amid a stalled gov­ern­ment for­ma­tion process, now in its sev­enth month.

“We deeply re­gret that our Le­banese friends are not able to agree on a gov­ern­ment,” Am­bas­sador Bruno Foucher said at a news con­fer­ence held on the French frigate Aconit, in Le­banon for three days for ex­er­cises with the Le­banese Army.

“The lack of a gov­ern­ment in Le­banon risks los­ing this mo­men­tum in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” Foucher added, not­ing as well that in­vestors in­ter­ested in the projects pro­posed in Le­banon’s Cap­i­tal In­vest­ment Plan will not hes­i­tate to look for op­por­tu­ni­ties else­where.

“It’s a strong mes­sage that I’m putting for­ward, but with­out an ef­fec­tive gov­ern­ment … we can­not start work­ing on these projects.”

This was echoed by Prime Minister-des­ig­nate Saad Hariri’s eco­nomic ad­viser Nadim Munla at a sep­a­rate news con­fer­ence Fri­day, say­ing that while some prepa­ra­tions for the projects can move for­ward with­out a Cab­i­net, the real work can­not be­gin un­til the gov­ern­ment is formed.

France is not the first to high­light the risk of not jump­ing on the op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by CEDRE, the Rome II con­fer­ence for Le­banon’s se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tuses and the Brus­sels con­fer­ence that saw hu­man­i­tar­ian aid pledged to sup­port Le­banon – all held in the first half of this year be­fore the May par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. The World Bank has also warned that Le­banon could lose loans if a pro­longed po­lit­i­cal dead­lock means they are not used.

“It would be truly un­for­tu­nate for Le­banon, hav­ing gained such sol­i­dar­ity, to lose the in­ter­est of this sol­i­dar­ity by be­ing in­ca­pable of es­tab­lish­ing a gov­ern­ment,” Foucher said. “There are other coun­tries that may need in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance.”

The am­bas­sador em­pha­sized, how­ever, that there was no dead­line set for re­forms to be im­ple­mented but that “It’s easy to see that seven months with­out a gov­ern­ment is time wasted.” –

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