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Jan 19-20, 2019: Summit of Arab leaders in Beirut a prod for quarreling Lebanese politicians?

LEBANON - The looming 2019 Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Beirut might prod Lebanon to end the political gridlock that is exacerbating its economic mess. Evidence of a functioning government could open business opportunities when the Arab leaders are in town.

Leading Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar published a blank newspaper in October to protest the continued failure of members of parliament to form a government.

Michael Aoun was elected president on Oct 31, 2016, and the country held its first parliamentary election in nine years in May 2018. Christian parties and Hezbollah’s coalition emerged stronger – while Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement returned weaker. Leaders are still at odds on how to form a cabinet with rival groups.

The discord has prevented the country from dealing with fallout from the civil war in neighboring Syria, a conflict that has led to an influx of 1.5 million refugees and the closure of vital trade routes.

The World Bank has halved its 2018 economic growth projection for Lebanon to 1 per cent, according to a Bloomberg news service report, with the international Monetary Fund seeing the country’s public debt reaching 180 per cent of GDP in five years from 150 per cent in 2017.

The Arab Economic and Social Development summits are meetings of the Arab League heads of state to address economic and social development among member-states. The private sector, including banks, chambers of commerce, industry and agriculture, participates on the sidelines.

The inaugural summit was held in 2009 in Kuwait, and the second summit was held in Egypt in 2011.

#22915 Published: 12/16/2018

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