Lebanon seeks private sector infrastructure investment

By Junaid Salman in Beirut

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri opens The Lebanon Investment in Infrastructure Conference in Beirut on Tuesday (March 6th). [Junaid Salman/Beirut]

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri opens The Lebanon Investment in Infrastructure Conference in Beirut on Tuesday (March 6th). [Junaid Salman/Beirut]

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Tuesday (March 6th) opened "The Lebanon Investment in Infrastructure Conference" in Beirut, to pave the way for economic recovery and help Lebanon regain its economic and financial position.

The conference comes ahead of and in preparation for the CEDRE conference to support Lebanon, to be held in Paris on April 6th.

It intended to strengthen the role of the private sector by paving the way for its participation in financing 40% of the projects, in accordance with the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) law of 2017, organisers said.

More than 600 participants from 20 countries in the region and beyond attended the March 6th conference, representing more than 200 enterprises, banks, economic organisations, development funds and direct investment funds.

The international community is expected to help support Lebanon's $16 billion, 10-year Capital Investment Programme during the CEDRE conference.

This includes investment in the energy, water, transport, telecommunication, wastewater and solid waste sectors, with more than 40% of the programme's projects expected to be funded through private investments.

The programme is expected to improve the outlook of the Lebanese economy and mobilise private investments, create job opportunities and boost growth.

It is expected to enhance the economy's competitiveness and stimulate the trade and export routes between Lebanon and neighbouring markets.

Private sector investment

Lebanon has entered a new phase marked by involving the private sector in the implementation of infrastructure projects, al-Hariri said.

"The success of the CEDRE conference depends mainly on the serious intent of the international community to stand by Lebanon to support its economic stability," he said.

It also depends on "genuine will on the part of all political parties to proceed with the financial reform process and implement the sectoral and structural reforms that would stimulate the activity of the private sector", he added.

Lebanon is implementing the reforms required to encourage the private sector and enable the state to put an end to financial waste and corruption, he said.

The projects addressed at the conference fall within the framework of the PPP law of 2017, said Mohamed Choucair, chairman of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Lebanon.

"These projects have important developmental dimensions that will lift the Lebanese economy out of the downturn, boost growth rates, create employment opportunities and upgrade [key infrastructure]," he told Al-Mashareq.

"Every billion dollars spent on investment in Lebanon yield 1% growth and create about 15,000 jobs," he said.

It is vital that Lebanese political parties agree on the types of projects put forth to facilitate the work and ensure the success of the programme, Choucair said.

Well-developed infrastructure

"Lebanon is experiencing difficult economic circumstances, and hence is in urgent need for this number of infrastructure projects to jumpstart and reinvigorate the economy," said former Minister of Industry Vrej Sabounjian.

"Well-developed infrastructure is essential to ensuring an abundance of projects, facilitating business, attracting investments and creating jobs to help lift the Lebanese economy," he told Al-Mashareq.

"If things go well, investments [in infrastructure] will revitalise the economy of Lebanon, whose infrastructure has not seen any development in more than 20 years," economist Kamel Wazne said.

Lebanon needs huge investments in the basic sectors to raise the growth rate, create job opportunities and improve the quality of public services and competitiveness of the economy, he said.

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