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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Lebanese politicians and experts weigh in on CEDRE conference

The country's fourth donor meeting in Paris is sparking debate

I concur with many of the criticisms and I firmly believe they come from the heart – but I have not heard any other alternative, said Nadim Munla, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's senior adviser. Mohamed Azakir/Reuters
I concur with many of the criticisms and I firmly believe they come from the heart – but I have not heard any other alternative, said Nadim Munla, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's senior adviser. Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Lebanese politicians and experts are debating the need for holding the CEDRE donor conference in Paris on Friday. The first Paris conference, held in 2001, saw donations of less than $1 billion. The most recent conference, Paris III, took place in 2007 and netted pledges of $13bn in the wake of Israel and Hezbollah’s 2006 war, which left Lebanon’s infrastructure badly damaged. The officials spoke during a recent conference in Beirut. Here are some of their thoughts:

Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani:

“The level of debt has increased significantly, and the level of services has disintegrated since then. We have become a government that is used to borrowing without conditions, and that has become detrimental to the way we deal with public affairs.

The timing [of the conference] is designed to benefit those running, [for the May Parliament elections].

“We have in our hands assets and capabilities that would allow Lebanon to fund its next phase of development without the conference in Paris. We have laws that have not been implemented, and we have a constitution that was agreed to at the end of the civil war that hasn’t been implemented.”

Mohamed Zeidan, a businessman and consultant who was auditor for the Paris II and Paris III conferences:

“Instead of begging the French to give us this money, why aren’t the reforms being made? I don’t think Lebanon should be asking others for help. The international community has treated Lebanon like an alcoholic that promises he will change. Our great grandchildren will still be paying this debt, even if the economy grows at 8 to 10 percent per annum for the rest of the history of Lebanon

You have a cancer – that cancer is a lack of governance. It has resulted in unequalled corruption. I’ve worked in 25 African countries, and the only country that comes close to Lebanon was Botswana, and to a lesser degree Zimbabwe.

We have provided, with the IMF, since 1999, every year, a full report stating the reforms that should be implemented should you as Lebanese want to reduce the debt ratio.”

Nadim Munla, a senior advisor to the prime minister:

“You are going to see a major improvement in the relationship between the Gulf Countries and Lebanon. I concur with many of the criticisms and I firmly believe they come from the heart – but I have not heard any other alternative. Do we have any better alternative? My rationale is no. If anyone has an alternative, I would like to hear it.”

Alain Tabourian, who served as energy minister in 2008 and 2009:

“We are going to the international community for the fourth time in a relatively short period. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again – and we happen to be doing the same thing with the same political establishments.

The larger the bubble, the harder the crash.”