Beirut, Lebanon September 20, 2012 - The World Bank Group is committed to extending technical and financial support to the Lebanese Government as it addresses economic and social challenges compounded by regional instability. The strong message of support came from the Bank’s Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, Inger Andersen as she wrapped up a two-day official visit to Beirut on Thursday.
“Lebanon is going through difficult times, some of this driven by factors beyond its control,” Andersen said. “In all my meetings with senior officials, with the private sector and with representatives of civil society, we discussed these multiple challenges but we also talked about opportunities in Lebanon which can be exploited to spur growth and create inclusive job opportunities.”
Andersen was accompanied on this trip by Ferid Belhaj, a Bank executive and lawyer by profession, who assumed his post as Country Director for Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iran and Iraq on September 17, 2012. Belhaj’s predecessor, Hedi Larbi, was also part of the delegation.
The team met Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Minister of Finance Mohammad Safadi, and Minister of Energy and Water Gebran Bassil. The delegation also heard from key private sector actors and civil society representatives about the difficulties they are facing, especially the inadequate economic infrastructure services that are impeding growth.
“Naturally, I took this opportunity to thank the Lebanese authorities for their cooperation and excellent relationships we had during the four years I spent in Lebanon,” said Larbi, who has held the Country Director position since December 1, 2007. “We discussed with government officials the development challenges Lebanon is facing and how the Bank can further help Lebanon address the priority structural and fiscal reforms to gradually restore fiscal stability and put the country on a more sustainable and inclusive growth path.”
“This visit and the time afforded us by the many officials and citizens we have met, has been a timely reintroduction for me to Lebanon,” said Belhaj. “I realize I come to this post at a particularly challenging time but this multiplies the World Bank’s energy to work in partnership to mobilize the resources needed to achieve Lebanon’s social and economic objectives.”
Before assuming his Middle East post, Belhaj, a Tunisian national, was Country Director the World Bank’s Pacific Department, where he scaled up Bank engagement in small and fragile states. Between 2007 and 2010, he was the Bank’s Special Representative to the United Nations in New York, where he engaged with UN agencies on agendas, ranging from climate change to fragile and post-conflict states and the global financial, economic and food crises.