Hariri Calls on Int'l Community to 'Invest in Peace and Support Our Stability'
Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday urged the international community to invest in Lebanon and to launch programs for the Syrian refugees aimed at creating a stable future while warning that the current situation in Lebanon is like a “ticking time bomb.”
Explaining Lebanon's burden of hosting around two million Syrian and Palestinian refugees, Hariri said: “It is as if 500 million European Union citizens suddenly woke up to an increase of 250 million people overnight!”
Hariri was speaking at the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region.
He noted that Lebanon’s GDP growth rate has dropped from an average of 8 percent before the crisis to just over 1 percent in the following years.
“Total loss to our GDP since the start of the conflict reached 18 billion dollars in 2015.
Poverty rate has reached 30 percent, and the overall unemployment rate doubled to 20%, while unemployment among Lebanese youth is at 30%,” Hariri said.
“Our public services are overstretched and our infrastructure depleted and needless to say, our debt and budget deficit ratios have increased,” he added.
“On top of that, estimates suggest that more than 500,000 Syrian and Lebanese youth are at risk as social discontent rises. 90% of Lebanese youth feel threatened by the displaced Syrians, and tensions between both communities are reaching a dangerous level,” Hariri warned.
He cautioned that “this could result in social unrest and violence, which threatens the country’s security and political stability.”
“The current situation in Lebanon is a ticking time bomb,” he went on to say.
The premier emphasized that “time has come to implement long-term solutions for this long-term crisis.”
“No country has shown the generosity of Lebanon, given our economic and political challenges over the past years. But I am afraid that Lebanon cannot continue, and will not continue to sustain the consequences of hosting 1.5 million displaced on its territory, unless a new plan is put in place,” he added.
“We can together invest in hope and pursue the vision of the Government of Lebanon, and enter an era of growth, stabilization and development, where Syrians are educated, trained and well equipped to contribute to the future of their country,” Hariri told the conference.
“Or, we can surrender to despair and allow poverty and unemployment in Lebanon to increase, pushing displaced Syrians into further insecurity and vulnerability to radicalization… and what’s worse, I fear that further economic deterioration and insecurity might push both, displaced Syrians and Lebanese, to seek another home,” the PM warned.
“I stand before you this morning to ask you to invest in hope. Just like Lebanon did. We have developed a clear strategy to deal with the severe repercussions of the Syrian crisis, and to put Lebanon back on a sustainable path of stabilization and development,” Hariri said.
He announced that this strategy relies on “two pillars.”
“The first is to launch a large-scale capital investment program that would help generate employment to both Lebanese and Syrians. The second is to provide education opportunities to displaced Syrians, including non-formal education, technical and vocational training,” he said.
“I call upon you to invest in peace and support our stability. Today, Lebanon represents a model of moderation and coexistence for the entire region… Please protect it,” Hariri pleaded.
“Let us together invest in the future of a stable Lebanon. Let us together invest in peace and stability of the region and the world. Let us invest in Lebanon and invest in Syria’s future generation, where Lebanon can be the perfect launching pad for Syria’s reconstruction,” he added.