Report: Lebanese PM Welcomed World Bank Electricity Project

World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim was in Beirut on Tuesday for talks with Lebanese officials on the country's economic situation and mainly a proposal to fund an electricity project, which was welcomed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam.

Al-Liwaa newspaper quoted sources as saying that Salam reacted positively to the funding that is expected to have low interests.

The plan will be implemented in less than 10 years to help Lebanon overcome the burden of its general debt, the daily said.

The power project will help Electricite du Liban avoid major rationing in the summer season. The state-run firm has warned that rationing would be scaled up to 10 hours daily if the authorities failed to transfer funds to it.

It said another option would be to increase electricity tariffs to reduce the deficit, which was worsened by more consumption due to the presence of a more than a million Syrians who have fled their war-torn country.

The World Bank's proposal is part of its initiative to implement the pledges made by the International Support Group for Lebanon that was first established in New York in September last year, al-Liwaa said.

The Group undertook to work together to mobilize support for the sovereignty and state institutions of Lebanon and to highlight and promote efforts to assist the country where it was most affected by the Syrian crisis, including in respect of strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces, assistance to refugees, and structural and financial support to the government.

The World Bank says that Lebanese citizens incur on average 220 interruptions of electricity per year, the worst performance in the region.

Kim, who was in Saudi Arabia in the first stop of a regional tour before arriving to Beirut, said that the conflict in Syria has cost Lebanon $7.5 billion.

Kim said the World Bank is trying "as much as possible" to help Lebanon and Jordan that host the largest Syrian refugee populations.

Lebanon's gross domestic product dropped 2.9 percent annually between 2012 and 2014, according to World Bank estimates, while 170,000 Lebanese fell into poverty and the unemployment rate doubled to more than 20 percent.

The World Bank warned that refugees in Lebanon and Jordan are putting extra strain on services such as water, electricity, waste disposal, primary education and health, while increasing competition for scarce jobs.



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