Lebanon’s Hariri: ‘Last chance’ for Lebanon to escape economic collapse

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri says he is optimistic for his country's future. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 February 2019
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Lebanon’s Hariri: ‘Last chance’ for Lebanon to escape economic collapse

  • Hariri admits corruption in Lebanon needs to be tackled
  • Tells World Government Summit that Lebanon is in a "make or break" situation

DUBAI: Lebanon faces its last chance to leave the economic crisis it is currently in, the country’s Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said on Sunday.

“We have collective support from all political factions to create reforms and new laws. We have no issues in passing new reforms in government," Hariri said, speaking to a packed conference hall at the World Government summit in Dubai

Hariri said he was optimistic for the country’s future,  but warned: “either we make it or break it.”

Hariri touched on the development reforms and programs that have been set by the CEDRE economic conference in Paris last year that aimed at encouraging foreign investors to trust placing their money in the Mediterranean country, saying that “our new reforms and laws will ensure that we overcome our economic crisis.”

Last year, the global ratings agency Moody’s gave Lebanon’s economy a “low (+)” grade, due to “the deterioration in the regional economic and political environment.” This, and the fear of a real estate collapse, have taken the country to the brink. 

On Thursday, a draft government policy statement set the main policy objectives of Hariri’s national unity government, which committed to bringing down the debt-to-GDP ratio by boosting the size of the economy and reducing the budget deficit.

He also spoke of the need to eliminate corruption, an ever-present thorn that has drained the country over the years. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, Lebanon sits at 120 out of 140 countries in terms of corruption.

"Most importantly for me is to develop a clear program to confront corruption and to make the necessary reforms to support Lebanon economically,” he said.

Lebanon last week formed a government after nine months of political wrangling among politicians over ministerial votes. 

Hariri was also hailed by moderator Emad El-Din Adeeb for his role in pushing women to the forefront, after recently appointing Raya El-Hassan as the country’s Minister of Interior - the first woman to hold such a post in the Arab world.

“Women in Lebanon represent 54 percent of society and not employing them and involving them in the work will be a loss to the GDP,” he said, adding that “I believe women in the Arab world and Lebanon can do a better job than men even.”

Among the audience was Dubai Ruler and UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, who recently revealed in his latest book that he had wanted to make Dubai like Beirut since he visited the city as a child.

When the moderator asked the audience for a show of hands for who wants to visit Lebanon, Sheikh Mohammed raised his.

The Lebanese PM referred to the sectarian strife targeting the region, as a “disease.”

“I am optimistic that the Lebanese youth can rebuild Lebanon the way Rafic Hariri wanted it to be,” he added, referring to his father – the country’s former prime minister who was assassinated 14 years ago. 


US envoy urges tighter business ties between Israeli settlers, Palestinians

Updated 5 min 59 sec ago
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US envoy urges tighter business ties between Israeli settlers, Palestinians

  • David Friedman was speaking in Jerusalem at a forum to encourage business links between Israeli settlements and Palestinians

JERUSALEM: The US ambassador to Israel on Thursday urged deeper business ties between Israeli settlers and Palestinian businessmen in the occupied West Bank, angering Palestinian leaders.
David Friedman, who was appointed by US President Donald Trump, was speaking in Jerusalem at a forum to encourage business links between Israeli settlements and Palestinians.
“There are many, many Palestinians that would like to be freed up to engage in business ventures with Israelis, and they’re entitled to that opportunity,” Friedman told Reuters at the two-day forum attended by Israeli government officials, international businessmen and a handful of Palestinians.
Friedman’s remarks were immediately attacked by Palestinian officials as encouraging settlement activity in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, territory captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians seek as part of a future state.
“This constitutes a stab in the back of the Palestinian people,” said Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.
“We warn against any involvement or participation of any Palestinian in projects with settlers, or meetings called by the American ambassador.”
Most of the world considers the settlements illegal under international law, a position Israel rejects. US criticism of Israeli settlement building has died down since Trump took office.
Many Palestinians view engagement with the settlements as “normalization,” arguing that doing business with Israelis in the West Bank legitimizes their presence and hinders future Palestinian sovereignty.
However, thousands of Palestinians work in settlements, often in manufacturing or construction jobs which they say offer higher wages than similar jobs in Palestinian cities.
Haldun Al-Husseini, a Palestinian garment manufacturer from Jerusalem who attended the forum, says business with Israelis is key to improving the Palestinian economy, where unemployment stands at 32 percent.
“Most of my business comes from Israelis,” Husseini said. “If we don’t work together, we will not improve Palestinian lives.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas severed all political contacts with the White House after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and opened a US embassy in the city last May.
Those decisions delighted Israel, which claims all of Jerusalem, including the eastern sector captured in 1967, as its capital. But the moves dismayed Palestinians who see east Jerusalem as their capital.
Earlier this week, it was revealed the United States Consulate General in Jerusalem, which serves Palestinians, will be absorbed into the new US Embassy to Israel in March, creating a single diplomatic mission for both parties.