BEIRUT – An international conference on Wednesday will probably signal a readiness to provide support for Lebanon once a new government is formed that commits to reforms, but new aid pledges are not expected, a Lebanese official said.
Nadim Munla, senior adviser to caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, said the Paris conference would offer a political statement of support for Lebanon and recognize its unprecedented liquidity crisis.
“They will recognize that there is a short-term problem and that if and when a government (is formed) that basically responds to the aspirations of people, most probably the international community will be ready to step in and provide support to Lebanon, or additional support,” he told Reuters.
“There will be a statement of support for Lebanon. This is the expectation. It is not a pledging conference.”
Lebanon is facing the worst financial crisis since the 1975-90 civil war. The liquidity crunch has led banks to enforce capital controls and the Lebanese pound to slump by one third.
Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, prompted by protests against the ruling elite, with no agreement on a new government.
France has said the conference aims to press for the quick formation of a government to restore the economic situation.
Lebanon won pledges of over $11 billion at a conference last year conditional on reforms that it has failed to implement. The economic crisis is rooted in years of corruption and waste that have generated one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new prime minister unraveled.
Hariri is now seen as the only candidate for the post.
He has said he would only lead a cabinet of specialist ministers, believing this is the way to address the economic crisis, attract aid, and satisfy protesters who have been in the streets since Oct. 17 seeking the removal of a political class blamed for corruption and misrule.
But Hezbollah and its allies including President Michel Aoun say the government must include politicians.
“Let’s see the coming few days and if there will be an agreement among the political parties on a formation … otherwise we might take longer,” Munla said. Hariri would be willing to have politicians in cabinet but they should not be “the regular known faces of previous governments”.