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

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. 


Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

Updated 13 min 1 sec ago

Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

BEIRUT: Three major Lebanese parties have agreed on nominating Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, to become prime minister of a new government, the Lebanese broadcasters LBCI and MTV reported on Thursday.
The agreement was reached in a meeting on Thursday between outgoing Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician, and senior representatives of the Shiite groups Amal and Hezbollah.
There was no official comment from the parties or Safadi. The broadcasters did not identify their sources.
Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of an unprecedented wave of protests against ruling politicians who are blamed for rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Hariri remains caretaker prime minister for now.
Since quitting, Hariri, who is aligned with the West and Gulf Arab states, has been holding closed-door meetings with parties including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which had wanted him to be prime minister again.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim according to the country’s sectarian power-sharing system.
Mustaqbal Web, a Hariri-owned news website, said a meeting between Hariri, Ali Hassan Khalil of the Amal Movement and Hussein Al-Khalil of Hezbollah had discussed recommending Safadi for the post.
MTV said the government would be a mixture of politicians and technocrats. Mustaqbal Web said the type of government was not discussed, and neither was the question of whether Hariri’s Future Movement would be part of the Cabinet.
LBCI said the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party allied to Hezbollah, had also agreed to Safadi’s nomination.
They did not identify their sources.
Safadi is a prominent businessman and member of parliament from the northern city of Tripoli. He served previously as finance minister from 2011-2014 under prime minister Najib Mikati.
Prior to that, he served as minister of economy and trade in the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who was backed by the West. He held that post again in the Hariri-led Cabinet that took office in 2009.
Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister of a Cabinet of specialist ministers which he believed would be best placed to win international aid and steer Lebanon out of its economic crisis, sources close to Hariri have said.