Lebanon support group urges action at Paris meet

Lebanon support group urges action at Paris meet
Lebanon support group urges action at Paris meet

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - At a meeting in Paris, Lebanon’s international backers urged immediate action from Beirut to form a new government and address major structural issues due to the risk of a “chaotic unwinding of its economy.”

The International Support Group for Lebanon said that a “substantial, credible and comprehensive policy package of economic reforms” are needed to halt the financial and macroeconomic deterioration, to restore confidence in the economy and to address social and economic challenges.

The body of states and international organisations also said that this is needed in order to provide answers to the aspirations expressed by the Lebanese since October 17 when the ongoing mass protests against the government began.

While the group was meeting in Paris, Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri that the conference showed “a strong indication that the international community is more interested in Lebanon, its stability and security than some Lebanese.”

Politicians are still divided on a path forward, despite demands from protesters for a non-political group of technocrats.

President Michel Aoun has delayed consultations to select a new head of government several times as names are put forward only to be ruled out.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the stability of Lebanon was “very important to the kingdom.”

"It is important for the Lebanese people and political system to find a way forward that guarantees stability and sovereignty,” the ministry added.

In another blow for Lebanon, caretaker finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil said that the 2019 deficit will be much bigger than expected owing to a "very concerning" decrease in state revenues.

The government had sought to pass a budget with a small impact on the already towering level of public debt that currently stands at around 150 per cent of annual GDP – the third highest level in the world after the US and Japan.

No new aid pledges were offered at the Internationational Support Group meeting but caretaker prime minister Saad Hariri has been pushing to pass reforms to tap into 11 billion in grants and loans offered at a donor conference in 2018.

The assistance is tied to meaningful structural reforms that require Beirut to make cuts and pass new legal frameworks. However, parliament and cabinet are yet to take meaningful action to unlock the funds.

Attending the International Support Group meeting were representatives of France, the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, China, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the League of Arab States and the World Bank.

Updated: December 11, 2019 09:05 PM

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