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. 


Kushner: Trump wants fair deal for Palestinians

Updated 25 June 2019
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Kushner: Trump wants fair deal for Palestinians

  • Fighting new economic plan ‘a strategic mistake,’ White House adviser says
  • Says plan would double Palestinian GDP in 10 years, create over a million jobs

MANAMA, Bahrain: Donald Trump wants a fair deal for Palestinians, the US president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said on the eve of the launch in Bahrain of the White House’s $50 billion “peace for prosperity” plan.

The Palestinians are missing an opportunity to participate in the Middle East peace process by boycotting the Bahrain conference, Kushner said. “This is a strong package that has been put together. Fighting it instead of embracing it, I think, is a strategic mistake.”

The plan proposes a global investment fund for Palestine and neighboring Arab states, and a $5 billion transport corridor between the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian leaders have rejected it, but Kushner said their criticism was “more emotional than specific.”

“Nobody has refuted our core premise that this would do a lot to stimulate the economy,” he said. “The Palestinian people have been trapped in a situation for a long time and we wanted to show them, and their leadership, that there is a pathway forward that could be quite exciting.”

The Palestinian people have been trapped in a situation for a long time and we wanted to show them, and their leadership, that there is a pathway forward that could be quite exciting.

Jared Kushner, US president’s adviser

Kushner said Trump decisions such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv were evidence that the president kept his promises.

“The Palestinians might not have liked his Jerusalem decision, but he made a promise and he did it,” he said. What the president wanted now was “to give the Palestinian people a fair solution.”

Kushner said the plan would double the GDP in 10 years, create over a million jobs, reduce poverty by 50 percent and bring unemployment to below 10 percent.

“We believe this doable,” he said. “It’s hard, but if there’s a peace agreement and we set up the right structure, we think it could really lead to improving people’s lives in a substantial way.

“I think there is a lot of enthusiasm in the West Bank and Gaza to see if we can find a political solution so that this can be implemented.”

The political element of the White House plan has been delayed by uncertainty in Israel, where there will be elections this year after an earlier vote failed to produce a stable coalition, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may also face a criminal trial for corruption.