Lebanese PM flags up Saudi investment potential, financial ties

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri spoke of the pressing need to restore the nation’s finances at the conference in central London on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 14 December 2018
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Lebanese PM flags up Saudi investment potential, financial ties

  • Saad Al-Hariri: We have prepared many agreements that we will be signing with Saudi Arabia as soon as we form an administration
  • Al-Hariri has been struggling to form a national unity government in Beirut since elections in May produced an inconclusive result

LONDON: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri highlighted the potential for strong commercial and investment ties between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia at a conference in London on Thursday.
He described his relationship with Saudi Arabia as a good one: “I believe that the Saudi market is a good market for Lebanon.
“We have prepared many agreements that we will be signing with Saudi Arabia as soon as we form an administration. When we form a government, we will see Saudi Arabia taking some serious steps toward Lebanon.
Al-Hariri has been struggling to form a national unity government in Beirut since elections in May produced an inconclusive result.
But he hoped a new government would be unveiled before the end of the year or early 2019.
Al-Hariri said he recognized the need for urgent reforms to rebuild Lebanon after the civil wars of 1976-90, and clashes with Israel that left many areas pulverised in 2006. “We have to do things differently, we can’t go on as before,” he said.
He also spoke of the circumstances that Lebanon found itself after taking in 1.5 million Syrian refugees. There was a pressing need to restore the nation’s finances after several years of GDP growth of between 1 percent and 1.5 percent.
Al-Hariri added: “We can’t tell Gulf countries to come to Lebanon (to invest) at the same time as there are political parties (in Lebanon) cursing the hell out of the Gulf. We need to move away from the regional conflicts. Lebanon is too small to pay a price in these big conflicts. Big countries can afford it. We cannot.”
Creating employment was vital for Lebanese young people, and he said that the unemployment rate among refugees was 75 percent.
“We have to look outside of the box … where we can invest money, create jobs quickly.
“We want to prepare Lebanon as a platform for foreign companies to come and invest in, and make Lebanon a hub for them to take advantage of reconstruction in Syria, Iraq and even Libya.”
At a recent media briefing at the World Bank’s offices in Beirut, Lebanon’s economy was described as “unsustainable” by the bank’s vice president for the MENA region, Ferid BelHajj.
He said: “Lebanon has been defying gravity for quite some time”, and a day would come when “gravity materializes,” though he added that the central bank had a good buffer of foreign reserves. 
The IMF has called for “an immediate and substantial” fiscal adjustment to improve the sustainability of public debt, which stood at more than 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2017.
The World Bank has a $2.2 billion investment portfolio in Lebanon, but the lack of government means $1.1 billion of that amount — to be spent on jobs, health and transport projects — is still awaiting approval by Beirut before it can be used.
International donors meeting in Paris pledged more than $11 billion of investment for Lebanon, but they want to see reforms first.
At the Paris meeting Al-Hariri promised to reduce the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP by 5 percent over five years, Reuters reported.


OPEC may cancel April meet, but hold steady on oil output: Saudi energy minister

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid Al-Falih that April may be premature to make any production decision for the second half. (Reuters)
Updated 34 min 6 sec ago
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OPEC may cancel April meet, but hold steady on oil output: Saudi energy minister

  • ‘As long as the levels of inventories are rising and we are far from normal levels, we will stay the course guiding the market toward balance’
  • ‘The consensus we heard ... is that April will be premature to make any production decision for the second half’

BAKU: OPEC and its non-OPEC partners need to reconsider if there is a need for a meeting in April, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Monday, adding that there was no pressure from the United States to increase supply.
“We are not under pressure except by the market,” Khalid Al-Falih told reporters ahead of a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
“As long as the levels of inventories are rising and we are far from normal levels, we will stay the course guiding the market toward balance.”
The JMMC includes major oil producers Saudi Arabia and Russia and monitors the oil market and conformity levels with supply cuts.
“There is a consensus that has also emerged that no matter what, we should stay the course until the end of June.”
Asked whether he was updated on whether the United States administration would extend the waivers it granted to buyers of Iranian crude, which are due to end in May, Al-Falih said: “Until we see it hurting consumers, until we see the impact on inventory, we are not going to change course.”
The oil producers are due to meet next in April in Vienna, but Al-Falih said this may not happen.
“The consensus we heard ... is that April will be premature to make any production decision for the second half,” Al-Falih said.
“We may not have a meeting in April,” he said, adding that the JMMC may recommend this later on Monday.