French diplomat Pierre Duquesne
Donors are still ready to provide support
"Lebanon Situation is very urgent" French Envoy
05 Sep 2019
Lebanon - French Envoy assigned to follow up on CEDRE decisions, Ambassador Pierre Duquesne, on Thursday declared that he had winded up his task "with a strong feeling that [Lebanon's] pressing situation had become evident and fathomable.”
“This has become quite evident in light of what I've been hearing about the familiarity of this situation in Lebanon and that it was possible to find an easy exit out of the situation," he explained in a press conference held earlier on Thursday at the French Cultural Center.
“I met yesterday with the President of the Republic who mentioned a deadline of 6 months; but the situation is urgent and clear. The situation is very urgent, and there is not one economic or financial indicator that isn't negative," the ambassador confirmed.
He went on to say that after his meetings, he had found out that there was a significant understanding of the delicate economic situation, but the magical solution "that some were thinking of" did not exist.
“I did not hear donors say that they will stop financing Lebanon. They do have some doubts that have increased over the last few weeks and months, but they are still ready to provide support," the ambassador maintained.
The diplomat considered that the objective of reforms should not be pleasing outsiders but rather serving the Lebanese people and associations and advancing the Lebanese economy.
“The oil discovery is not the magical solution that will cure all the difficulties that Lebanon has faced. While it certainly is a positive discovery, it can't solve things yet. It is a false hope; it is not the right way forward," Duquesne said.
“We should remember that 60% of the deficit comes from Electricité du Liban. This is what needs attention right now," the ambassador carried on, stressing the necessity of enhancing the collection of electricity taxes, respecting what was said during Spring concerning raising tariffs as of January 2020 and not delaying it any further. This will acquire trust, which would constitute a good initiative," the ambassador noted.
He also highlighted the necessity of carrying out reforms in the retirement system, customs, mechanisms countering tax evasion, and reducing tax exemptions.
Duquesne called upon the Lebanese authorities to set a clear hierarchy of CEDRE projects and specify priorities, saying, "CEDRE obviously needs carrying out reforms to set the country straight, and not to please the outside."
“I heard in my meeting shows the determination of Lebanese officials concerning reform and implementing projects before the required deadlines, which is certainly positive. The Lebanese government has a lot to do, and those in charge in Baabda are committed, as well as donors," the ambassador stated.
He confirmed that CEDRE needed to start on all fronts. "There is no date for CEDRE's benefits, but the donors need trust in order to finance Lebanon."
“We have not witnessed such a great speed in applying reforms, and the approval of the 2019 budget is late; deadlines should be respected and committed to," Duquesne concluded.