Donors Say Beirut's Recovery Will Cost $2.5 Billion
International donors Friday laid out a $2.5-billion response plan to the devastating port blast in Beirut in August, urging reforms in the crisis-hit country.
The European Union, United Nations and World Bank published the plan four months after the country's worst peacetime disaster on August 4 that killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and ravaged a huge part of Beirut.
They said the roadmap for the next 18 months was to both help the most vulnerable people with international grants and focus on reconstruction funded by loans and private funds hand-in-hand with sweeping reforms.
"The priority needs of the people-centered recovery track amount to $584 million, of which $426 million are needed for the first year," said a report on the roadmap.
"The costs for the reform and reconstruction track are estimated at $2 billion."
But those behind the plan warned international support for the reconstruction would "depend on the government's ability to demonstrate credible progress on reforms".
In particular, "efforts should include the forensic audit of the central bank, banking sector reform, capital control, exchange rate unification and creation of a credible and sustainable path to fiscal sustainability," the report said.
This would be essential to secure private funding and public sector loans, it added.
The EU, UN and World Bank requested a long list of urgent measures, including a "transparent investigation" into the port blast, and the enacting of "a new Port Sector Law, addressing the port authority’s operations as well as customs".
Lebanon is mired in its worst economic crisis in decades.
The value of the local currency has plummeted against the dollar, prices have soared, and poverty has risen to more than half the population.
Lebanon's government resigned after the August explosion, but talks have stalled to form a new cabinet essential to start reforms towards unlocking billions in desperately needed financial aid.
Last month, an international firm pulled out from a forensic audit of the central bank after it did not receive data needed for the mission.
An investigation into the blast launched by Lebanese authorities has led to the arrest of 25 people, including top port and customs officials, but no conclusions have been drawn yet.