French President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday that he will visit Lebanon for a third time this year in order to “pressure the political class.”
“I’ll return to Lebanon this month to pressure the political class and politicians must form a government to conduct reforms or else there will not be international aid,” Macron said at the start of an international videoconference on humanitarian aid for Lebanon.
“We won’t abandon the need to carry out reforms nor the Beirut port investigations,” he added.
Macron also called for “speeding up the formation of the Lebanese government and abiding by the French reform initiative.”
Macron and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also announced the creation of a fund handled by the World Bank, the U.N. and the European Union to provide support for Lebanon, including food, healthcare, education and the reconstruction of the Port of Beirut.
“We can, together, help the Lebanese people move beyond the emergency phase and onto the path for longer-term recovery and reconstruction,” Guterres said.
The plan also calls for “a targeted set of reforms, which are essential to facilitate recovery and reconstruction,” he added.
Formation of a reform-minded government was the first step in a French plan towards unlocking massive financial aid to rescue the country from its worst economic crisis in decades.
“The commitments… have not been respected,” Macron lamented.
He nevertheless welcomed the fact that international donors had provided more than 280 million euros towards humanitarian aid at a first conference on August 9, which had helped provide for the country’s immediate needs.
That had paid for, in particular “12,500 tons of flour to be distributed — 80 percent of the stock destroyed,” he said.
In addition to this, 73,000 had received emergency financial aid, around 20 medical teams had been deployed to the devastated city and 25,000 people received some kind of shelter and 90 schools had been sent fresh supplies.
“It’s a lot,” said Macron. “But it’s not enough.”
Even before the Beirut port blast brought the country to its knees, Lebanon had been in economic crisis for more than a year. Earlier in 2020, it was wracked by protests at the government’s failure to act.
Representatives from 27 countries participated in Wednesday’s meeting, including 12 heads of state and local Lebanese aid groups which have a central role as trusted partners, according to the French presidency.
World leaders and international organizations pledged nearly $300 million in emergency humanitarian aid after the Aug. 4 blast but warned that no money for rebuilding the capital will be made available until Lebanese authorities commit themselves to serious political and economic reforms.
The donors pledged the aid will be coordinated by the U.N. and delivered directly to the Lebanese people, in a clear rebuke of the country’s entrenched and notoriously corrupt leaders.
In a damning report Tuesday, the World Bank said the authorities there had deliberately run the economy into the round.
“Lack of political consensus on national priorities severely impedes Lebanon’s ability to implement long-term and visionary development policies,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank regional director, who also called for the swift formation of a government.
The fall 2020 edition of the Lebanon Economic Monitor predicted the economy will have contracted by 19.2 percent this year and projected a debt-to-GDP ratio of 194 percent next year.