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Still no date for crucial donor conference

Lebanon puts itself back at the hub

By James Featherstone

The proposed donor conference for Lebanon has been in the planning stage since mid-2005. Initially slated to happen in the first quarter of 2006, it failed to materialize. The meeting was intended to bring together representatives of Gulf states, western countries and supranational lenders such as the IMF and World Bank.

The conference, informally known as Paris III, or even Beirut I if suggestions that it is held in the Lebanese capital materialize, will be intended to confirm the international community’s intention to support the country’s economy by donor lending. The Lebanese government argues that a stable Lebanon is crucial for regional stability.

Throughout 2005 the government drew up a five-year “fiscal adjustment plan”, finalized in mid-December. Measures range from cuts in government spending and improvements in efficiency to the introduction of a global income tax to boost revenue. A long-promised privatization programme is also meant to be kick-started, after years of political wrangling.

The plan is also intended to stabilize debt levels – currently at a painful 188% of GDP. A reduction to 110% by the end of the five-year period is planned.

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