Macron slams Lebanon political inertia at aid meeting

Promising to keep up the pressure on Lebanon’s political class, France's President Emmanuel Macron confirmed he would be returning there later this month. — Guillaume Horcajuelo/Pool pic via Reuters
Promising to keep up the pressure on Lebanon’s political class, France's President Emmanuel Macron confirmed he would be returning there later this month. — Guillaume Horcajuelo/Pool pic via Reuters

PARIS, Dec 3 — France’s President Emmanuel Macron yesterday urged Lebanese politicians to form a government as he chaired a second aid conference to help the crisis-hit country after a deadly port blast.

Lebanon’s cabinet stepped down after the August 4 port blast that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of Beirut, but efforts to form a new one have since hit a wall.

Formation of a reform-minded government was the first step in a French plan towards unlocking massive financial aid to rescue the country from its worst economic crisis in decades.

“The commitments... have not been respected,” Macron said, at an international conference for humanitarian aid attended by foreign and international donors, as well as Lebanese non-governmental organisations.

Macron in his speech to the gathering, which was held by video-conference, nevertheless welcomed the fact that international donors had provided more than €280 million (RM1.38 billion) towards humanitarian aid at a first conference on August 9, which had helped provide for the country’s immediate needs.

That had paid for, in particular “12,500 tonnes of flour to be distributed — 80 per cent of the stock destroyed”, he said.

In addition to this, 73,000 had received emergency financial aid, around 20 medical teams had been deployed to the devastated city and 25,000 people received some kind of shelter and 90 schools had been sent fresh supplies.

“It’s a lot,” said Macron. “But it’s not enough.”

Promising to keep up the pressure on Lebanon’s political class, he confirmed he would be returning there later this month.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said humanitarian aid was “crucial”.

“Your assistance is crucial for the overall Lebanese population from north to south,” Aoun told those attending.

He said the priority remained to form a government.

Even before the Beirut port blast brought the country to its knees, Lebanon had been in economic crisis for more than a year. Earlier in 2020, it was wracked by protests at the government’s failure to act.

In a damning report Tuesday, the World Bank said the authorities there had deliberately run the economy into the round.

“Lack of political consensus on national priorities severely impedes Lebanon’s ability to implement long-term and visionary development policies,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank regional director, who also called for the swift formation of a government.

The fall 2020 edition of the Lebanon Economic Monitor predicted the economy will have contracted by 19.2 per cent this year and projected a debt-to-GDP ratio of 194 per cent next year. — AFP

Related Articles