BEIRUT: Lebanon hopes to secure billions of dollars for infrastructure this week at an international donor conference in Paris, as it grapples with low growth and soaring debt.
Some 50 countries and international organizations are expected at the CEDRE (Cedar) conference that begins Friday, where Beirut will request up to $22 billion for an eight to 12 year investment program. Lebanon hopes an influx of cash will help revive the economy, which has been hammered by political unrest and spillover from the war in neighboring Syria, reports AP.Lebanon is home to some 1.2 million refugees, accounting for nearly a quarter of its population. The civil war next door has also hindered land exports to Jordan, Iraq and oil-rich Gulf nations.
From 2007 until 2010, Lebanon's economy grew at an average of 9 percent annually. But it hit a major downturn in 2011, when a political crisis brought down the government and the Syrian uprising stoked unrest among Lebanese factions.
Since then, growth has averaged a mere 1.5 percent, according to government estimates, and rampant corruption has hollowed out infrastructure and basic services. Nearly three decades after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanon still experiences frequent cutoffs of water and electricity. With public transport networks virtually non-existent, its aging roads are clogged with traffic. Chronic problems with waste management have sparked mass protests in recent years.
"Lebanon currently is facing major economic challenges, and these challenges range from budgetary problems to balance of payment to growth to unemployment," said Nadim Munla, senior adviser to Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
"It has been characterized by many as a very difficult time," with some calling it a "doomsday scenario," he said.
Munla said the conference will be seen as a major success if Beirut can secure funding for the first stage of its investment plans, an estimated $10 billion.