Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said that we have the choice between surrendering to the current situation and the difficulties facing Lebanon, or moving Lebanon forward to ensure prosperity to all Lebanese, adding: I will not give up. This is the option that I am working on, and I am fully confident that the Lebanese political community will overcome the period of disagreement that you are hearing about and realize that the interest of Lebanon and the right of the Lebanese to a dignified life should prevail over everything else.

Premier Hariri's words came during his sponsorship today of the opening session of the Arab Economic Forum at the Four Seasons Hotel.

He said: Good morning from Beirut to all the participants in the 26th session of the Arab Economic Forum. This forum was always an occasion to translate the solidarity of the Arab brothers with Lebanon. It was also for many years the focus of attention of Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and it became with the efforts of our friend Raouf Abu Zaki and Al-IktissadWal-Aamal group an annual opportunity for the Arab economic elite to discuss common concerns, challenges and aspirations.

We are all aware of the difficulties facing the region and the crises confronting many Arab countries due to the absence of security and political stability, the repercussions of wars and conflicts on our economic and social conditions, the results of the displacement of millions of Syrian brothers to neighboring countries, the decrease of tourism and the negative effects of all this on the growth rates and the ability to attract investments.

This quick look at the challenges and difficulties facing us, requires from us as countries, societies and economic bodies, to cooperate to produce common frameworks of thinking about solutions and drawing policies capable of developing, protecting and activating the Arab economy.

Our region needs around 27 million new employment opportunities in the next five years.

The question is how to achieve this? The first challenge for the Arab countries lies in raising growth rates. The second challenge is to make it a sustainable growth that includes all sectors of society, especially women and youth. This means unleashing an indispensable vitality in the economic cycle of our Arab countries.

The third challenge lies in the diversification of growth resources, and this does not apply to oil producing countries only but also to countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries.

Experience showed that the diversification of sources of growth is necessary to fortify our national economies in the face of domestic and external shocks and crises.

The diversification of sources of growth requires modern infrastructure that allows the development of the traditional production sectors and the increase of their levels of production. It also allows new productive sectors and activities based on knowledge and innovation to flourish and spread.

The success in diversifying the sources of growth requires us to change our working methods as governments and public institutions. It also requires the development of our legislations and administrative and legal procedures to fit the needs of modern economy and the necessities of growth. All this while maintaining macroeconomic stability because we all know that any financial and monetary destabilization in our countries will have great economic and social repercussions.

We in Lebanon have prepared a clear road map to raise growth rates, diversify its sources and ensure its sustainability. The Lebanese government presented this roadmap at the CEDRE Conference. It is based on four main complimentary axes:

First: Implement the Capital investment program with the value of $17 billion that spreads over a period of 10 years to modernize and develop the infrastructure.

Second: Maintain the monetary stability through a financial correction of an average of 1per cent annually over a period of five years.

Third: Undertake the necessary structural and sectoral reforms that are necessary to ensure good governance and fighting corruption, develop the legislations that govern the work of the private sector and modernize the public sector procedures.

Fourth: Prepare and implement a strategy to develop the productive sectors, both traditional and new, and increase Lebanon's export potential.

We are convinced that the private sector has a vital and fundamental role in the implementation of the road map. We in Lebanon bet on the potentials of this sector, which has proven its skill in the development of many sectors and the implementation and management of many projects.

We took a big step towards involving the private sector in the management and the implementation of projects by approving the public private partnership regulatory act. Two months ago, we launched three partnership projects in the transport and communications sectors.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the difficulty of the economic situation in Lebanon. It is true that we are facing economic and social challenges, some of which have exacerbated over the years, while others have arisen as a result of recent developments in the region and the consequences of the Syrian displacement in particular.

These challenges can further exacerbate if we do not deal with them. The solution lies in the hands of all local parties, and the solution begins by not wasting time anymore, forming a government, and proceeding with the required reforms, however difficult and painful they are.

We have the choice between : surrendering to the current situation and the difficulties facing Lebanon or moving Lebanon forward to ensure prosperity to all Lebanese. I will not give up. This is the choice that I am working on, and I am fully confident that the Lebanese political community will overcome the period of argument that you are hearing about and realize that the interest of Lebanon and the right of the Lebanese to a dignified life should prevail over anything else.

I am also fully confident that, despite all the difficulties and conflicts, the Arab world will overcome the risks. The brotherly countries and we are eager to have a period of stability, reconstruction, prosperity and growth. We are all partners in the process of advancing our region, and the future of the region is promising.

Finally, I wish the forum success and thank all the participants from the Arab countries, especially the Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly Marzouk Al-Ghanim and I don't think that anyone spoke about the affection of Kuwait towards Lebanon and the relation between the two states and people as he did. I always say: I wish the Lebanese loved their country just as the Kuwaitis love Lebanon, and the same applies to all the Gulf countries. The Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah always supported Lebanon and was one of the first to stand by us. I thank him for being here with us and his presence is very precious for us and I hope we will continue the path together.

I also thank Raouf Abu Zaki and and Al-IktissadWal-Aamal group wishing them all the best. I also want to thank Central Bank Governor RiadSalame who always worked relentlessly for the interest of the country amidst a very difficult political atmosphere. Some may criticize the governor and say that his policies were costly, but I think that the political differences are much more costly, and this is why he pursues these policies. I also thank our former Minister of Finance Jihad Azour and we are proud of his presence in the International Monetary Fund.

Source: National News Agency

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