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Speeches & Transcripts September 23, 2020

Remarks by Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director, Operations at the Ministerial Meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon

UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres,

Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian,

Prime Minister Diab,


Almost 50 days after the devastating Port of Beirut explosion, we convene here today to express solidarity with the Lebanese people but also to urge reforms.

Beyond the human tragedy of the explosion, Lebanon continues to suffer from the consequences of a perfect storm that weakened its financial, economic and social fabric.

Lebanon has been reeling from deep multiple crises that are institutional, financial and economic and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis and the spillovers from the Syria conflict.

The Lebanese people - more specifically those who are most vulnerable – are paying a high price for these crises.

Lebanon is witnessing an increase in poverty:  The Bank has estimated that 45 percent of the population is poor and 22 percent live in extreme poverty. Unemployment is increasing.  People have become increasingly distrustful of the current political and economic system. This will take years to restore.

Immediately after the massive Port of Beirut blast the World Bank Group mobilized a team of experts to embark on a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA).

The RDNA was conducted in close cooperation with the United Nations and the European Union, and followed a ’whole of Lebanon’ approach, engaging all stakeholders – concerned public authorities, institutions, private sector, and civil society organizations.

The RDNA estimates that physical damage from the explosion is in the range of $3.8 and $4.6 billion.

Losses as a result of the decline in the output of economic sectors are estimated to be in the range of US$2.9 and US$3.5 billion.

Through the end of 2021, the costs of recovery and reconstruction are expected to be between $1.8 and 2.2 billion.

The RDNA recommends a framework for Reform, Recovery, and Reconstruction (or the '3Rs') to build back a better Lebanon based on principles of transparency, inclusion and accountability.

In the immediate term, we agree that it is critical for Lebanon to move swiftly towards the formation of a new government, one that is effective and able to meet the legitimate aspirations and needs of the Lebanese people.

In the short term, Lebanon needs to adopt and implement long-overdue key reforms, including the adoption of a comprehensive macro-economic stabilization program.  This will be key to unlock promised international aid and private investment and lay the basis for the economic and social recovery.

Over the medium term, Lebanon will have to prioritize building stronger and more transparent institutions, strengthening good governance, and fostering a better business environment alongside focusing on physical reconstruction.

Today more than ever before, Lebanon needs our help. The people of Lebanon need strong, coordinated international support. But first, decisive and firm action by the Lebanese authorities is necessary.

Lebanon and the World Bank have been partners for some 75 years. As a long-term partner, we remain strongly committed to support the urgent demands of the crisis.

The Banks stands ready to move quickly and, pending a government decision, we can finalize preparation of an emergency social protection program of over $200 million, benefitting over half a million poor people.  Further support could be forthcoming as part of a comprehensive international assistance package.

Thank You.