Caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, on Tuesday welcomed at the Grand Serail a World Bank delegation, which included the World Bank’s Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, Ferid Belhaj, and the WB’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Jean-Christophe Carret.
The meeting reportedly discussed the World Bank’s projects in Lebanon.
In the wake of the meeting, Belhaj said, “We’ve held with Premiere Mikati a constructive and positive meeting, which has also given us the opportunity to discuss the depth of cooperation between the World Bank and Lebanon.”
Belhaj went on to affirm that the World Bank, amid the delicate circumstances that Lebanon is going through, was ready to provide significant financing to the Lebanese, with a value ranging between $300 and $500 million, to be allocated to social needs coverage.
“This is very important in light of the increasing poverty rates. The funds also cover other sustainability-related projects,” he added.
In response to a question about the World Bank’s financing of gas and electricity pumping from Egypt and Jordan, Belhaj said: “The topic of energy and electricity in Lebanon is an old one, and the World Bank has partnered with successive Lebanese governments since 2002. There are important reforms that the Lebanese state must implement, and we are walking the Lebanese government through these essential reforms.”
Belhaj made it clear that the WB was more than willing to extend support to Lebanon in this area, however, he regretted that reforms were still far from being implemented, “especially those involving auditing the accounts of Electricité du Liban — the authority that regulates electricity and correcting prices — all of these do not exist.”
“Reforms can open the door, whether for the World Bank or for other partners, to extend more support to the electricity sector in Lebanon,” Belhaj concluded.