On Friday, the Cedar Conference will be held in Paris as part of French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative to mobilize international support for Lebanon. It is also to show that France and the international community are keen on promoting Lebanon’s security and stability as well as to help it bear the burden of refugees living there.
With the efforts of the French president and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, France has been able to draw more than 50 international delegations that will study investment plans in infrastructure projects in Lebanon. Everyone in Lebanon expects that the conference will supply around 4 to 5 billion dollars. Nevertheless, as described by the French envoy in Lebanon who is also in charge of arranging the conference, the latter will primarily pave the way and not be merely an investment or donor conference.
There is a general impression in Lebanon that the situation in the country is disastrous and that corruption will go on. It’s as if the Lebanese people have surrendered to this reality. However, there are individuals with requisite capabilities and competence in the country that raise our hopesRanda Takieddine
Investing in Lebanon
The amount of funds for investment and moving on with these investment plans will be fixed when the Lebanese government carries out real reforms in the economic sector after the elections. The country has not witnessed any actual reforms in electricity, water and other vital sectors.
The Lebanese in general are questioning the feasibility of this conference because they lack confidence in their politicians, who have until now failed to solve the main issues related to electricity, environment, waste management and marine pollution. The Lebanese coast could have been a draw for tourists — just as it is in the Greece, Turkey and Cyprus coasts, but swimming and fishing remains a health hazard in Lebanon. Thus, it would be too much to expect large investment without the proper reform and renewal of vital sectors of the Lebanese economy.
We are grateful to President Macron who is encouraging Western and Arab countries as well as member states of the Security Council to help and support Lebanon. Macron trusts Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has been a traditional ally of French leadership, just like his father Rafic Hariri was. Now Macron’s relations with Hariri and Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who recently visited France, proves that the young French president strongly wants to support Lebanon.
Burden of debt
But just like John Kennedy said, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. This particularly applies to the Lebanese people, as they have to strictly question their politicians, especially through the upcoming elections, which are expected to be disappointing in terms of the law adopted and the candidates in general. It also applies to politicians who should not consider their country as a resource for making personal profit.
There is a general impression in Lebanon that the situation in the country is disastrous and that corruption will go on. It’s as if the Lebanese people have surrendered to this reality. However, there are individuals with requisite capabilities and competence in the country that raise our hopes that the country will rise and overcome its ordeal.
According to a leaked recording allegedly for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) expert, the organization has, since 1999, been providing recommendations for administrative reforms in Lebanon - reforms which the country must pursue if it wants to reduce the high level of its debt. He added that Lebanon suffers from an incurable cancer which is the absence of good management thus resulting in corruption – a high level of corruption that is only matched by Botswana out of the 20 other African countries where he worked.
The expert noted that it is illogical that a country like Lebanon, which has good educational levels and capabilities, has not carried out administrative reforms in the electricity, waste management and other sectors. The expert was also critical of the large number of ministers in the Lebanese government which is 30. In contrast, Russia only has nine ministers.
ALSO READ: A US-Saudi entertainment summit
Despite these facts, some still believe in Lebanon and in the path initiated by Macron to help Lebanon as an important initiative that raises optimism. The dynamism, movement and mobilization of the French president to push for support of Lebanon should be matched by effective Lebanese action for reform, or else it would be the last chance for this country to rise. Hariri, who has Macron’s confidence and friendship, should not disappoint him or the Lebanese who trust him. He should work hard to implement the commitments of the reforms as soon as possible, for Lebanon can no longer bear promises without fulfilling them.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Randa Takieddine is a Lebanese writer and the director of Al-Hayat newspaper office in Paris.