BEIRUT: The World Bank approved Friday a $295 million dollar package to revamp the country’s deteriorating transport sector and secure employment for thousands of low-income Lebanese and Syrian workers.
The venture, titled the Greater Beirut Public Transport Project (GBTPTP), is expected to generate two million labor days in construction jobs for unskilled Lebanese and Syrian workers, according to a statement released by The World Bank.
Lebanon has been reeling under the burden of the Syrian refugee crisis, with displaced Syrians now accounting for around 25 percent of the population.
This influx of refugees has led to increased congestion and decreased mobility which is then translated into large economic costs, now estimated at $2 billion.
Ziad El-Nakat, a Senior Transport Specialist at the Bank, said that traffic congestion is resulting in an economic cost of between 5 to 10 percent of the national GDP.
The GBPTP will seek to introduce 120 new and clean buses running on dedicated lanes to service 40 kilometers of dedicated Bus Rapid Transit lanes from northern districts to the heart of Beirut.
This upgrade, coupled with 250 feeder buses operating between the main stations and the hinterland will improve the mobility of women, youth, and persons with disabilities while reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.
The project will be financed by a $225.2 million loan to be paid over 31.5 years including an eight-year grace period.
The Concessional Financing Facility (GCFF), which provides low- or no-interest financing packages to middle-income countries whose economies are strained by refugee inflows, will also contribute a grant of $69.8 million.
The project will attract private investments in infrastructure, thus stimulating Lebanon's economy and create jobs to ease “the financial burdens of a government struggling with high public debt and fiscal imbalances.”
The news comes two weeks before Lebanese officials travel to Paris to attend the ‘Cedre’ donor conference 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.
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