The roads are full and the traffic grinds on, with no reliable public transport or railways. Drivers and their passengers are left to the mercy of congestion, stuck in their cars for hours in fume-filled traffic jams. Over the past 30 years the number of vehicles has dramatically increased, but the capacity of roads and highway has not kept pace. In the power sector, the Lebanese have to put up with daily power cuts.
Privatization and reforms are badly needed for the 11.6 billion dollars pledged at CEDRE.
“The reforms include countering corruption,” said Nadim Munla, Hariri’s advisor.
“One of the main reforms is a new law for tenders. Also, these organizations are depending on international measures where the loan from the World Bank is subject to the measures and monitoring of the World Bank and the loan from the European Investment Bank is also subject to European measures and monitoring.”
The power outages are costing businesses and residents billions of dollars in lost productivity.
Some have resorted to using private generators to cover power shortfalls.
Professor Jassem Ajaka, Economic and Strategic expert, Lebanese University:
“Nobody can tell us about reforms in Lebanon without countering corruption. The problem is that corrupt people are found in all the political factions. Would the factions expose their people who are involved in corruption? My personal opinion is, we cannot answer this for the time being. We need to wait and see and hope they will be serious this time.”
“In our opinion, we think that local and international pressure and especially the pressure of the World Bank related to electricity are playing a positive role and possibly we will reach a solution. Would this solution be ideal? No, I do not think so because corruption cannot be terminated in one push of a button. The World Bank in its report on the 15th of October 2018 described the Lebanese electricity sector as a bleeding sector, usually ‘bleeding’ is a term we do not about the economy, but this term is used in medicine and when someone is bleeding then it is in the death stage so imagine to what extent the World Bank is describing Lebanon and the electricity sector. I think there will be a solution for the electricity sector, but we do not know what type of solution it would be. But as economic expert I can say any solution will be better than the current situation.”
Once dubbed the Paris of the Middle East, Beirut is now a far cry from its former glory, with congested roads and daily power outages.
Its creaking infrastructure struggles to keep up with demand and last April France hosted an economic conference for Lebanon‘s development, known as CEDRE, aimed at boosting investment and fiscal stability.
Billions of US dollars were pledged, but so far there is little sign of progress.
In the meantime, the Lebanese hope the pledges, promises and rhetoric that emerged from CEDRE will deliver a reliable infrastructure for the future.