Hariri sounds upbeat as he prepares to visit France to Initiate CEDRE

haririLebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri is scheduled to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron next week in Paris, to “initiate” the implementation of CEDRE conference.

Hariri will kickstart his meeting after a Cabinet meeting set on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Digital Transformation Conference on Friday, Hariri said : “CEDRE will be launched after my visit to Paris and my meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron. Then we will be able to benefit from these loans.”

“CEDRE is based on investing in the infrastructure, which will provide liquidity to the Lebanese economy and thus generate economic growth. The McKinsey study also focuses on sustainable growth and determines plans on a scientific base,” added the PM.

 Hariri reiterated his call for partnership between the public and private sectors to improve the worsening economic crisis and stimulate the stagnant economy, saddled with a soaring national debt of $85 billion, equivalent to about 150 percent of gross domestic product, slow growth and a high budget deficit.

He called for a greater private-sector role in the country’s economic affairs. “The public sector cannot manage all the sectors it is managing today,” he said.

Hariri underlined the importance of transforming Lebanon’s economy into a digital economy to reduce red tape at ministries and public institutions. “I strongly believe that transformation into a digital economy will take Lebanon to a much better place,” he said. He emphasized that a digital economy was the first road toward fighting corruption and carrying out necessary reforms. “There is a strong team working to transform Lebanon into a digital country,” Hariri said.

The premier underlined the need for consensus among various parties on the reforms the government plans to carry out, including amending laws.

He said: “Give me a year without any political problems and the sky will be Lebanon’s limit. Then, we will be able to solve all the economic problems of Lebanon.”

“I am confident that if we focus in the next few months on completing the 2020 draft budget and approving the reforms and related decrees, then by the end of next year or the beginning of the year after, we would be improving our situation, and the international rating institutions will begin to see that we are serious about our reforms,” he added.

“I am very optimistic about the future of Lebanon’s economy because all we are doing is based on scientific foundations and is not done randomly. It will show that we are a stable state that is doing what is needed to achieve progress and growth,” he added.

As part of austerity measures in the draft 2020 state budget, which the Cabinet would begin discussing next week, Hariri said there would be no extra spending, “except for investment.”

Last week, Macron telephoned Hariri to express relief over the progress being made toward launching the CEDRE investment projects, in the first foreign praise of the Lebanese government’s push to enact reforms recommended at the conference. Macron and Hariri agreed to pursue in-depth discussion on accelerating the implementation of reforms and investment projects in Lebanon and ways of enhancing stability in the country and the region during the premier’s visit to Paris.

Their phone conversation came a day after a French envoy tasked with following up on the implementation of the CEDRE conference’s decisions wrapped up a four-day official visit to Lebanon.

After talks with President Michel Aoun, Hariri and more than 30 ministers, civil society groups and businesspeople, Pierre Duquesne, the interministerial delegate, assured the Lebanese that the CEDRE funds were not under threat despite a delay to the implementation of essential reforms. However, he underlined the importance of acting quickly to implement fiscal and infrastructure reforms to fix Lebanon’s economic woes.

At the conference, international donors pledged more than $11 billion in soft loans and grants to finance a series of infrastructure.

Agencies