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.


Saudi Arabia and UAE launch a new joint cryptocurrency

Updated 19 min 19 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia and UAE launch a new joint cryptocurrency

  • The cryptocurrency will be limited to banks during its first stages
  • The program will also help the two countries evaluate the monetary policies of a centralized currency

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have launched a joint cryptocurrency during the first meeting of the Saudi-Emirati Coordination council Saturday in Abu Dhabi, UAE’s national press agency WAM said.

The cryptocurrency will be limited to banks during its first stages, until the governments have a better understanding of how Blockchain technology operates cross-borders.

The currency operates on the use of a “distributed database between the central banks and the participating banks from both sides,” aiming to protect customer interests, set technology standards and assess cybersecurity risks. The new program will also help evaluate the impacts of a central currency on monetary policies.

During the meeting, representatives of Saudi Arabia and the UAE also signed the Joint Supply Chained Security Cooperation program, which tests the two countries abilities to provide vital supplies during times of crisis and national emergencies, as well as share expertise and knowledge in the field.

All 16 members of the executive committee of the council followed up on the execution of the initiatives mentioned in the Strategy of Resolve.

Representatives also set five other initiatives to enhance the cooperation between the two countries, such as facilitating the traffic between ports, improving airports to make it easier for people with disabilities to travel, creating a financial awareness program for children aged 7-18, starting a joint platform to support local SMEs, and the integration of civil aviation markets,

The committee was headed by Mohammad bin Abdullah Al-Gergawi, minister of cabinet of affairs and the future of UAE, and Mohammed bin Mazyad Al-Twaijri, minister of economy and planning in Saudi. The committee will also monitor the implementation of the initiatives.