Lebanon seeks $17 billion at Paris IV conference

The summit, dubbed the 'Cedar Conference', will focus on a wide-ranging economic program that encompasses sectorial projects from across the board, according to Nabil al-Jisr, president of Lebanon's Council for Development and Reconstruction.
by Georgi Azar

20 February 2018 | 16:15

Source: by Annahar

  • by Georgi Azar
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 20 February 2018 | 16:15

Birds fly outside the parliament building in downtown Beirut as members of parliament gather to elect the new Lebanese president on April 23, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Joseph Eid)

BEIRUT: Lebanon's investment program at the center of the upcoming Paris IV conference is valued at around $17 billion, with top officials expected to secure international commitments to bolster the country's ailing infrastructure and an economy reeling under the burden of a sizeable refugee population.

The summit, dubbed the 'Cedar Conference', will focus on a wide-ranging economic program that encompasses sectorial projects from across the board, according to Nabil al-Jisr, president of Lebanon's Council for Development and Reconstruction. 

Speaking at a conference held at the Grand Serail Tuesday, Jisr said that the 'Cedar Conference' will seek to secure financing for investment programs in the transport, water, sanitation, electricity and telecommunications sectors, as well as the country's industrial and tourism sectors.  

Jisr also noted that the program will be spread out over the next 12 years.

Lebanon's officials will up the ante in their efforts to reel in sweeping pledges and take home grants and soft loans to put the country's economic reform plan in motion.

The high stakes conference, convened by French President Emanuel Macron to shore up Lebanon's coffers, will look at obtaining the necessary funding for over 250 projects, with around 80 percent of the projects falling under the water, transport, and electricity sectors, Jisr said.

Yet Prime Minister Saad Hariri's advisor Nadim Manla expressed caution toward this endeavor, highlighting the fact that securing the requisite financing will be an arduous task given Lebanon's severe budget deficit.

"Financing our investment program is one of the most difficult tasks," he said, adding that the Lebanese state "cannot borrow or finance these projects using conventional methods."

On Monday, Lebanon's Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the country is facing a budgetary deficit of LBP 8 trillion if current expenditures are maintained, prompting the Cabinet to mull possible spending cuts to curb the deficit. 

Around 60 percent of the investment program is expected to be funded by grants and soft loans through the IMF's Compensatory Financing Facility (CFF), with an interest rate set at less than 1.5 percent over a period of 20 to 30 years, along with a grace period of five to ten years. 

According to Manla, the CFF is expected to put forth $4 billion over the next 4 years, while the European Union's External Investment Plan allocates around 2 to 3 billion dollars over the next 8 years. 

Paris IV is one of three conferences scheduled for 2018 to provide support for Lebanon. Two summits are planned in Rome and Brussels to rally international support for Lebanon's security institutions and attract foreign investments to shore up an economy suffering as a result of the everlasting Syrian refugee crisis and ongoing regional turmoil. 



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