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World Bank approves $400mn for Lebanon


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The Daily Star, 29 June 2018

Lebanon will receive $400 million worth of grants and soft loans from the World Bank to help create thousands of jobs. In a press statement, the World Bank said it has approved a new $400 million project to support Lebanon’s quest to expand nationwide employment opportunities, which have been severely impacted by the influx of Syrian refugees and the recent low growth trend of the economy.

“The financial package is expected to create 52,000 permanent jobs and up to 12,000 short-term employment opportunities,” the statement said. It said the Bank’s Board of Directors approved the new project, “Creating Economic Opportunities in Support of the Lebanon National Jobs Program” Wednesday.

“The program will enhance economic opportunities for vulnerable groups, specifically young men and women. The package comprises a $70 million grant from the Global Concessional Financial Facility and a $330 million soft loan. The non-grant portion carries an interest rate of 1.71 percent and will be repayable over 22 years, including a six-year grace period.

“To strengthen project effectiveness and value for money, the disbursement of funds is directly linked to the achievement of a set of targeted results established in consultation with the government,” the World Bank explained.

International organizations such as the World Bank informed the Lebanese government that it will try to help the country weather the negative impact of the refugee influx.

Lebanese officials have complained that the presence of Syrian refugees has dealt a severe blow to the economy and that refugees are competing with the Lebanese workforce.

“Lebanon is striving to cope with the economic and social impact of the Syria crisis and stimulate inclusive growth that benefits everyone.

“This can only be achieved through the creation of a favorable business environment for the private sector to grow, create jobs and invest in Lebanon’s rich human capital. This is exactly what this project aims to do,” Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank regional director for the Mashreq region, said.

According to the World Bank, this project will expand economic opportunities, especially in disadvantaged regions.

It will provide jobs for Lebanese citizens and temporary employment for Syrian refugees in accordance with existing laws that regulate their presence in Lebanon.

“The project supports the government’s own reform drive to stimulate a competitive business climate.

“This includes support for the development of PPPs [Public-Private Partnerships] in key infrastructure sectors, where increased private sector financing and expertise is essential to the delivery of better quality and more sustainably funded public services,” Peter Mousley, World Bank program leader in the Mashreq region, and co-team leader of the project, said.

“Another project priority is to support government initiatives to foster the competitiveness of SMEs [Small and Medium Enterprises] through the modernization of relevant services such as customs, which will help exporters, financial sector development and new products that will increase access to finance for SMEs and start-up entrepreneurs.”

He added: “Other initiatives include the development of the Special Economic Zone in Tripoli and the expansion of broadband internet services to rural areas. These will provide new market opportunities for businesses in these regions.”

The Daily Star

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