This week in Lebanon

Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Heidi Ahmed
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April 15, 2021
Undersecretary David Hale Visits Lebanon
BDL Urges Lebanon’s Government to Curb Subsidies
Foreign Firms Interested in Beirut Port Reconstruction

Undersecretary David Hale Visits Lebanon
This week, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale visited Lebanon. He called on Lebanese political leaders to show flexibility and form a government capable of implementing reform. He warned that politicians who block reforms could face punitive actions from the United States. He further added that the US is ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel. [Associated Press]

ANALYSIS

“The reason for Undersecretary David Hale’s visit, supported by the new Biden Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, was two-fold: to encourage the leadership of Lebanon to form a government willing to enact necessary reforms that respond to the needs of the Lebanese people; and to encourage a restart of the maritime border negotiations. I’m sure his refrain to the Lebanese politicians was, “Help me, so I can help you.” I’m not sure however what their answer was. The US is ready to help but it needs a partner willing to address the needs of its citizens and work for regional stability. We hope Undersecretary Hale found a partner finally ready to move forward.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


BDL Urges Lebanon’s Government to Curb Subsidies
This week the Banque Du Liban urged Lebanon’s caretaker government to cut subsidies in order to protect foreign currency reserves. The bank announced it had been forced to sell dollars to prevent inflation over recent months. [Reuters]

ANALYSIS

“It’s not enough that the Lebanese people are down; they are being kicked to the curb by the leadership. Not content with disabling the banking system through a Ponzi-like scheme they profited from, the Central Bank wants to end subsidies – the only protection against hunger and humiliation left for the Lebanese. It’s long past time to reform the system, target its impact to those who are needy, and ensure transparency and effectiveness. But why wait until the last moment when this has been obvious since October 17, 2019? The Central Bank is no savior of the people, far from it.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Foreign Firms Interested in Beirt Port Reconstruction
Several foreign firms are interested in rebuilding the Beirut Port left devastated by the August 4th explosion. German, French, Chinese and Russian firms have expressed interest. [Naharnet] This week Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri spoke with President Vladimir Putin on the phone regarding a number of joint cooperation issues including economic and trade relations. [Naharnet]

ANALYSIS

“With the Europeans insisting on transparency and reforms before committing to a plan, Saad Hariri is in Russia whipping up interest in the project. To ensure an honest project that benefits the Lebanese people and doesn’t disfigure the blast area, reforms to bidding and contracting regulations, judicial oversight, government concessions, and many more issues must be settled and enacted into enforceable laws. Clean up the debris, make the area safe and secure, and have a plan that respects the environment, the residents, and the needs of the country – not the few who want to feed at the trough.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.