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How Syria can help flailing Lebanese economy

Christiane Waked
Filed on November 5, 2019 | Last updated on November 5, 2019 at 08.34 pm

It's no secret that the Lebanese economy has been going through a serious crisis.

Lebanon has suffered immensely because of the ongoing war in Syria. However, now as the conflict is nearing its end, the country could help salvage the Lebanese economy while it looks to rebuild its own.

It's no secret that the Lebanese economy has been going through a serious crisis. Since 2018, more than 2,300 companies have reportedly gone bankrupt while more than half of the Lebanese population has become unemployed.

The country has amassed $85.1 billion in debt, and is on the brink of bankruptcy. Lebanon is the world's third most indebted country with public debt hovering over 151 per cent of its GDP - an unsustainable level as per the International Monetary. There's daily struggle for basic amenities, which has led to frustration among the population. It has been about a month since the Lebanese are out on the streets demanding what is their basic right in the first place. Lebanon is going through one of the worst economic phases in the last 30 years.

So when things start looking up in Syria it will have a direct impact on Lebanon.

In an article published on October 9, 2019, in Lebanese newspaper Al Diyar, Ali Dahi noted that many Lebanese engineering and architectural offices and companies that worked to rebuild Lebanon after the July 2006 Israeli aggression against the country have recently made several visits to Syria. They were briefed on the magnitude of the destruction and devastation that hit the Syrian architectural infrastructure and have been asked to present their proposals.

Dahi also mentioned possibilities of Syrian-Lebanese economic meetings and development of a joint working mechanism between the private sectors in both countries.

Last month, Saad Hariri, Lebanese Prime Minister who recently resigned due to the street demands, attended the second UAE-Lebanon Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi, sponsored by the UAE Ministry of Economy and the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce. He urged investors to invest in the Lebanese economy and using the country as a springboard for the getting involved in reconstruction of Syria and Iraq.

Lebanon could be a key player in supporting reconstruction work in Syria as the two countries are connected via a network of roads. Lebanon also has a maritime route through the ports of Tripoli and Beirut.

In addition, Lebanon has sufficient knowledge and experience in several sectors and contributes to the Syrian education and health sectors.

Seven Lebanese banks have presence in the Syrian markets through partnerships with local shareholders.

Once situation becomes calmer in Lebanon and new government is formed, Lebanese political leaders should engage in direct talks with Syria and develop strategies to ensure the return and resettlement of the two million Syrian refugees from Lebanon. The civil war in Syria has led to an influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and has created an overwhelming pressure on the country's utilities and stability.

The Arab countries must be a united front and help in the reconstruction of Syria. Perhaps, the countries should get together and create an Arab bank that focuses on finding the necessary funds for the reconstruction. Such an initiative would also help Arab countries find necessary resources when in need and help in their sustainable economic development.

This would be an ideal situation, a state of affairs where all Arab countries - excluding those responsible for the bloodshed and destruction in Syria - come together for its reconstruction.

Helping Syria get back on its feet would prove beneficial to all its neighbours. Refugees can return to their homeland, alleviating stress on host countries. The United Nations estimates that about 5.6 million Syrian refugees live in the neighbouring countries. And these host countries such as Lebanon and Jordan have nothing but to gain from a reconstructed Syria.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut


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