Lebanon PM seeks UAE help to revive economy
Abu Dhabi - Sheikh Mohamed and Hariri discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance them across all levels.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Monday received Saad Hariri, Prime Minister of Lebanon, who is currently on a visit to participate in the second UAE-Lebanon Investment Forum here.
During the meeting held at Al Bahr Palace, Sheikh Mohamed and Hariri discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance them across all levels, especially in the economic, investment and development sectors.
They reviewed the latest Middle East, GCC, and Arab developments and their repercussions on regional and international security. They also tackled Arab, regional and global issues of mutual interest.
Sheikh Mohamed emphasised that the UAE led by the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is keen to boost relations with Lebanon across various levels and to provide support to preserve its security and stability and fulfil the aspirations of its people to achieve development.
Hariri expressed his gratitude to the UAE for its continued support to Lebanon while facing challenges, and stressed that this support mirrors the UAE's continued approach in its relations with Lebanon and its people.
An official later said that Lebanon is awaiting "good news" after seeking financial support from the UAE to shore up its heavily indebted economy.
The Lebanese delegation has sought a cash injection for its central bank and investments in food, infrastructure, oil and gas, and renewable energy.
Faced with one of the world's highest debt burdens, low growth and crumbling infrastructure, Beirut has vowed to implement long-delayed reforms. It is also seeking to curb a sharp loss of confidence among foreign investors and among depositors who are turning away from the Lebanese pound.
While no deal was formally announced, Lebanese officials portrayed Monday's high-stakes talks as positive while Abu Dhabi stressed its support for Lebanon. In response, dollar bonds issued by heavily-indebted Lebanon rose.
Hariri said earlier on Monday he was hoping that the UAE would inject cash into its central bank.
The bank has been drawing down its foreign exchange reserves to repay the state's maturing dollar-denominated debt, and said last week it was prepared to do more.
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, also attending the conference, said it was continuing to provide dollars to local financial markets, adding that Lebanon has "numerous possibilities" as it looks for assistance but it expects support from the UAE.
"We are here to enhance public-private partnerships between Lebanon and the UAE," Hariri told the conference.
Lebanon's traditionally high reserves of foreign currency have been in decline because capital inflows into its banking system from Lebanese abroad have been slowing.
Beirut, which has a debt-to-GDP ratio of around 150 per cent, hopes its Gulf allies or regional sovereign wealth funds will offer support but no public pledges have so far been made.
Financial markets have tightened significantly this year, raising the costs for Lebanon of borrowing and insuring against default. Dollar-denominated bonds, which rose on Monday, remain down some 15 per cent this year.
UAE Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori told the conference the UAE was ready to be economic partners with Lebanon.
He said financing for Lebanon would be discussed in the meetings "and they'll make the right decision", adding Lebanon's investment climate is becoming more "settled".
Lebanon is preparing to sell a Eurobond of around $2 billion this month, with cash raised expected to be used to refinance maturing debts and shore up shaky public finances.