BEIRUT, Lebanon (May 21, 2010) – World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Shamshad Akhtar concluded on Friday (May 21, 2010) a three-day visit to Lebanon, where she discussed with officials the country’s development agenda and the World Bank Group’s support to strengthen the management of public finance and implement structural reforms and priority investments in the business environment, electricity, water, education and social protection, to sustain high and inclusive growth. She also underlined the potential benefits of increased regional economic integration, in particular the areas of Trade, Finance and Infrastructure which are key for Lebanon.
During the visit, Dr. Akhtar met with President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the ministers of finance, water and energy, telecommunications, labor and education. She also held talks with the Governor of the Central Bank, Riad Salameh, and inspected sites of current and potential World Bank projects in North and East Lebanon. Dr. Akhtar stressed that the World Bank Group valued its long-standing relationship with Lebanon.
A dedicated champion of the World Bank’s Arab World Initiative, Dr. Akhtar underlined the institution’s commitment to support Arab integration in such areas as transport, energy infrastructure and trade facilitation as well as improve access to finance for micro, small and medium enterprises as main engines for job creation and competitiveness.
Dr. Akhtar said that in her talks with the Lebanese authorities she sensed strong commitment to reforms and service delivery to the people, especially to the vulnerable Lebanese. She also said that she felt the authorities are in agreement on the reform and development priorities, but have yet to finalize strategic plans including implementation processes for the priority sectors and endorsement by the Government. Dr. Akhtar was accompanied on her visit by Hedi Larbi, Director of the Middle East Region, and Lebanon Country Manager, Demba Ba.
She informed the authorities of the advanced stage of the preparation of the World Bank Country Partnership Strategy (CPS), or business plan, for Lebanon for the next four years. As agreed with the authorities, the CPS will provide support on the following priority areas: fiscal stability and public financial management, improving the business environment, enhancing the economic infrastructure (water, electricity and environment), and strengthening the social sectors, especially improving the quality of education and enhancing social protection and safety nets in Lebanon.
“The new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) has benefited from broad and rich consultations with the Lebanese authorities under the leadership of Raya Haffar, Minister of Finance. The CPS is thus fully aligned with the Government’s Development Agenda and will support broad-based and sustained economic growth through the implementation of critical structural reforms and investment in priority infrastructure sectors”, stated Hedi Larbi, Director for the Middle East Region.
Throughout the years, Lebanon has maintained a strong relationship with the World Bank, which it joined in 1947, two years after the institution was created. At the request of the Government, the World Bank established an office in Beirut in January 2000, which has since grown in a hub, serving the Mashreq countries.
The Lebanon Portfolio currently consists of eight active projects concentrated in education, water and infrastructure. Three of these projects are funded by loans totaling US$210 million, and five are grants extended by the US$70 million Lebanon Trust Fund, created in 2006 after the hostilities with Israel. The International Development Fund and Post Conflict Fund have also extended four grants amounting to US$4.5 million.