Lebanon’s prime minister called on Thursday for “adequate and substantial” foreign investments worth nearly $10 billion to address the Syrian refugee crisis and upgrade the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
At least 1 million people fleeing neighbouring Syria’s war have poured into Lebanon since the conflict began in 2011, making up a quarter of the small country’s population and seriously straining its public services.
“In the coming three years, Lebanon needs no less than eight to ten billion dollars worth of new investments,” Saad al-Hariri told a news conference in Beirut.
Hariri said that international contributions, “while appreciated … are not proportional to the large needs of displaced Syrians and host communities”.
Hariri appealed for funding for a three-year plan aimed at equipping Lebanon to better withstand the refugee influx and shore up its economy.
The pillars of the economy – remittances from overseas workers, tourism and real estate – have been damaged by the war in Syria, neglected by wrangling Lebanese politicians and caught in regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Most of Lebanon’s infrastructure has been awaiting repair since its 15-year civil war ended in 1990, and its debt-to-GDP ratio is forecast by the World Bank at 155 percent this year, the third highest in the world.
At the top of Hariri’s priority list is a budget, which the country has not had since 2005, and a better environment for business, his economic adviser, Mazen Hanna, told Reuters recently.