Lebanese port eyes Syrian reconstruction

In this Aug. 9, 2017 photo, cranes offload hay from a ship onto waiting trucks in the port of the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon. (AP)
Updated 20 August 2017

Lebanese port eyes Syrian reconstruction

BEIRUT: The Lebanese port of Tripoli is positioning itself to play a key role in the $200 billion post-war reconstruction of Syria.
Port Authority chief Ahmad Tamer believes the project will create demand for 30 million tons of cargo capacity a year, and work has already begun on ensuring that Tripoli wins a slice of that market.
“Lebanon will benefit from the comparative advantages of the port, which will pave the way for new horizons in the near future,” Tamer said.
A $400 million expansion project is nearing completion, the port terminal is being managed by the experienced UAE operator Gulftainer, and a new “special economic zone” is planned for next to the port.
“We have finalized the infrastructure of the port and installed electric power covering all its areas,” Tamer said.
“We have also built roads and a special gate to the container dock, which will be able to receive around 200,000 containers in the first stage and then double the number later with the cooperation of big international companies and the adoption of sea lanes with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Port Said in Egypt.”
Tripoli may even be a link in China’s ambitious trillion-dollar “One Belt, One Road” project. The Chinese company Qingdao Haixi Heavy-Duty Machinery has supplied two giant container cranes to the port.
Economic sources told Arab News that “several companies seeking to get involved in the reconstruction of Syria have rented offices and houses for their employees in Tripoli, the city from which they will be running their operations.”
The ratification by parliament this month of the new public-private partnership law will help, the sources said. Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri described the legislation as “a step forward in the strong partnership between the government and the private sector; it will boost the Lebanese economy.”
Tamer said: “The port is ready through its advanced logistics services that facilitate the movement of containers, reduce the handling prices by 12 percent and the port fees by 53 percent, lower than any other port. There is also a grace period that allows goods to stay in the port for 15 days, and reduced prices after the grace period, which will make our fees 44 percent lower than other ports.”
Former minister of public works and transport Ghazi Aridi worked on the restoration of the port in 2011, driven by “the security circumstances that prevailed in Syria and the region.”
He told Arab News: “I visited the port 16 times; we held several meetings in Beirut to study the political circumstances defining the fate of exports, in case the land crossings between Syria and Lebanon were to be closed, in light of the confrontations that were taking place in Syria. We saw that air transport was costly to Lebanon, so we focused on maritime transport as the only solution.”
Aridi said talks about the importance of the port of Tripoli “were recently intensified amid talks about Syria’s reconstruction,” and “in order to complete the restoration of the port, we will need to reactivate the railway, up to the Syrian borders; it will cost between $40m and $45m, which is not a large sum and can be provided from the Port’s Fund.”
Antoine Amatoury, Gulftainer’s chairman in Lebanon, said Tripoli was “an important launch platform for the reconstruction of Syria and Iraq, and this is what will drive us forward to face those who want to hinder the process.”
The port of Tripoli is the second largest port in Lebanon, after Beirut. It extends over 3 million square meters and can receive around 450 ships per year, with a monthly average of about 37 ships, most of which carry general goods such as iron, wood, sugar, various types of grains, scrap metal, cars and building materials. The port also has a duty-free zone.

Adib presents government proposal to Aoun as Hezbollah pressure grows

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on September 17, 2020 shows Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (L) meeting with Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 26 September 2020

Adib presents government proposal to Aoun as Hezbollah pressure grows

  • Economic experts said on Friday that the continuing debates about the formation of the government are a “waste of precious time,” which is a luxury Lebanon does not have

LEBANON: As Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib continues his efforts to form a new government, on Friday he presented to President Michel Aoun a proposal for “distributing the ministries to various sects before setting a final formula on who will be nominated to these ministries,” sources said. The two men will meet again on Saturday for further discussions.

Adib is facing sustained pressure from Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, who have raised their demands to insist that all ministerial positions are filled by Shiites, and not only the key role of minister of finance.

This has jeopardized his efforts to form a “government that satisfies everybody,” based on a French initiative that calls for the appointment of a small team of independent specialists representing all religious sects, who are not members of the main political parties.

Government sources said: “Adib, during his meeting with representatives of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement on Thursday evening, refused to accept from them a list of names of Shiites from which to choose a minister of finance.”

During his Friday sermon the following day, the Grand Jaafari Mufti Ahmad Qabalan said: “We insist on nominating our ministers and we refuse to accept that anyone else will do that for us, no matter who he is.”

Economic experts said on Friday that the continuing debates about the formation of the government are a “waste of precious time,” which is a luxury Lebanon does not have. They criticized the continued prioritization of political interests over the best interests of the country and warned that “it is a matter of life or death for the Lebanese people.”

They pointed out “thousands have lost their businesses and tens of thousands have lost their jobs, and 55 percent of the Lebanese people are living below the poverty line. There is a shortage of essential products, and the reserves of the Banque du Liban (the Lebanese Central Bank) have withered away.” Meanwhile there has been a brain drain of professionals and businessmen leaving the country, “which threatens to deprive Lebanon of one of its strongest and most important assets.”

Adib faced further obstacles from Hezbollah allies on Friday when Suleiman Frangieh, leader of the Marada Movement, announced that he does not agree that the Prime Minister-designate should choose who represents his party in the government without consulting with him.

Meanwhile, Talal Arslan, leader of the Lebanese Democratic Party, called on Adib to “show respect to parliamentary blocks.”

Others warned that the president cannot approve a list of ministers he does not know, and that giving a Shiite party the finance portfolio must not deny other sects the right to ministries that they claim.

“The French initiative is blocked due to the conflict between particular interests and regional and international calculations,” said Lebanese MP Bilal Abdallah. “The country cannot stand this any more and it might collapse if things continue the way they are.”

He added that he hopes Adib will continue his efforts to form a government and give the French initiative a chance.

Lebanese academic Dr. Hares Sleiman said: “The options of Hezbollah and Amal Movement are determined by their priorities: do they want to defend Iran’s quota … or do they want to have the livelihood of the Lebanese people as their priority, including their supporters and the Shiites of Lebanon?”

He added: “(Amal Movement leader and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih) Berri wants the Ministry of Finance at a time when there is a shortage of money, and the international community is demanding the dismissal of those who are corrupt and the implementation of reforms to save the Lebanese economy.

“So would Berri accept an independent government that satisfies the demands of protesters in the streets so that Lebanon would enjoy internal, Arab and international support? If he does that, he would be conspiring against Hezbollah and its allies in power. If he does not, then the caretaker government of Hassan Diab will stay, and the crisis and the sanctions will continue.”