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Lebanese PM: We need additional funds for Syrian refugees

Thu, 11.12.2014 13:06



KYIV/Ukraine in Arabic/ According to the Minister of Economy & Trade, Alain Hakim, the displaced constitute more than one-third of Lebanon's population and live in areas where more than 30% of the country's poor are concentrated, raising the number of the poor to more than one million.

Hakim spoke about the impact of Syrian displacement on the Lebanese economy and the role of the LRF in overcoming this crisis.

-       First of all, what is the fund's role? And who established it?

The establishment of the Lebanese fund dates back to just after the July 2006 war as part of the agenda of the Stockholm donor conference. The objective was to develop a trust fund to channel donations from donor countries towards projects that contribute to economic and social development in Lebanon. The projects would be implemented by UN organizations in partnership with the relevant local authorities, and in direct coordination with the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit at the Ministry of Economy and Trade.

-        Who manages the fund?

Hakim: The fund is managed by a steering committee, chaired by the Minister of Economy and Trade, and comprises the head of the Development Unit at the Prime Minister’s office, the Minister of Finance and representatives from the five donor countries, in addition to the UN Resident Representative in Lebanon.

-        What are the fund's sources of funding?

We have received $45.8 million in 2006, divided among the following: Sweden ($9.8 million), Spain ($35.4 million) and Romania ($659,500). Germany also donated $5.8 million in 2014.

-        What is the importance of the campaign that was launched recently to boost the fund?

The social scene in Lebanon has changed as a result of the massive influx of Syrian refugees to all parts of the Lebanese territory.This has had a negative impact on facilities, housing, the infrastructure, economic activity and social conditions in the host communities for Syrian refugees. Those communities manifest the most severe forms of poverty, including child labor, unstable employment, and homes that lack the minimum requirements for human life.

This scene is repeated in all poor areas hosting refugees in Lebanon, such as Akkar and al-Dinniyeh in the north, the Bekaa Valley in the east, the southern regions and pockets of poverty around the capital Beirut. These Lebanese citizens are living in inadequate housing and having difficulty paying rent, and many are struggling to pay hospital bills, educate their children and earn a living.

-        What are the most notable aspects of the fund’s work?

The LRF undertakes small projects in areas that suffer from poverty and deprivation, and whose crisis has been exacerbated by the repercussions of the Syrian crisis.

The fund is a national trust fund that focuses on achieving sustainable development in the short term by addressing humanitarian, social and economic issues.

-        What are the key domains that need urgent funding in Lebanon?

Nowadays, Lebanon is under political, security and social pressures. The Syrian crisis has burdened all economic sectors and [affected] growth rates, and therefore it has become necessary to stave off the effects of this crisis with emergency funding for the following areas: The electricity sector, which is key to future development in terms of alleviating the cost to the economy; Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are the backbone of the Lebanese economy and are struggling from lack of funding. Bolstering SMEs would stimulate economic growth and alleviate poverty, improve living standards and create more jobs; and finally, the public infrastructure, which includes the oil and transportation sectors.

-       What is the economic cost of hosting the refugees and the extent of pressure on the infrastructure, the power grid, commodities' prices and others?

The direct economic cost of hosting refugees is expected to reach about $12 billion by the end of 2014. According to World Bank estimates, annual tax revenues are expected to register a decline totaling $1.5 billion for the years 2012-2014.

In addition to the decline in tax revenues, the Lebanese government is incurring a direct cost to its budget as a result of increased demand for public services by Syrian refugees and accelerated the exhaustion of the infrastructure.

The amount required to stabilize the economy and restore it to pre-crisis levels was determined to be between $2.5 and $3.1 billion. This amount covers all sectors, including health, education, labor, water, electricity, transport and others.

The effects of the Syrian displacement on Lebanon are not limited to the above. It is likely that pockets of poverty will expand by the end of 2014 and an [additional] 170,000 Lebanese citizens will drop below the poverty line as a result, joining a million others currently living under the poverty line.

The number of unemployed people is also expected to increase between 220,000 and 324,000, consisting mostly of youth with limited skills and causing the unemployment rate to double to more than 20%.

al-shorfa.com

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