Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri participated in a panel on "the future of Arab economy" at the Future Investment Initiative forum held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, alongside Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and Bahraini Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.
In response to a question about the formation of the Lebanese government, Hariri said: "There is no doubt that Lebanon faces great challenges and the government we are forming today is a national entente government. In the previous government, which was also a national entente government, we succeeded in holding several conferences, whether the CEDRE, Rome or Brussels, all for the benefit of the Lebanese Republic, and the most important thing at the CEDRE Conference are the reforms that we must implement in Lebanon.
The delay in forming the government today is only to achieve a government that fulfills the wishes of the Lebanese. We cannot rule in Lebanon the way we used to rule in the past. The whole world has changed. We are in 2018 and we still have laws from 1950, 1960 and 1970, all of which have to change.
The government we will form will apply the CEDRE decisions so we can get out of the economic crisis and improve the growth that reached 1, 5 percent. I am optimistic that the next Lebanese government will be a government of work, a government that will regain the trust of the citizen in his state because the Lebanese suffered since the martyrdom of my Father, may God have mercy on him, and a division occurred in the country.
This government also comes after the election of President Michel Aoun and after the parliamentary elections that we achieved despite what many expected. The government will be at the image of the new parliament, which endorsed all the reforms that were made at the CEDRE conference in Paris. What is important for me in this government is to have young men and women, because we must also give women a role in government work in Lebanon.
Therefore, the next government will include technocrats, and will implement what we agreed on at CEDRE Conference, and all this will be included in the ministerial statement. In Lebanon, governments always need time to be formed and we hope to form this government in the coming days".
He added: "I was keen when we went to CEDRE that all political parties agree on the reforms we included in our project. We took a decision in the Council of Ministers and, God willing, any party that will enter the government should approve these reforms. Lebanon cannot face all these challenges without reforms.
Lebanon is also suffering from squandering and corruption, and we all have to cooperate to fight this. I would like to thank all the countries that contributed to the success of this conference, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which contributed enormously. I was in constant contact with the Crown Prince regarding the Kingdom's contribution. He also played a great role in talking with other countries to encourage them to invest in Lebanon".
He added: "CEDRE is based on two things: first the development of the private sector, and in Lebanon we developed the PPP law. Most of the projects that we will undertake, whether in electricity, airport, water or roads, will be through the private sector and the state will not pay anything in these sectors. Other projects are not commercial oriented, such as wastewater. These projects will be handled by the World Bank and other funds such as the Saudi Investment Fund, Kuwait and other countries and organizations.
Reform requires us to change the way we work in Lebanon, and this change is for the interest of the country. We have to make these reforms, they are an investment that will create great growth.
In addition, we have a million and a half Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which is a very big burden. Investing in infrastructure will give money to the country, increasing its growth and creating jobs. I think we are on the right track, and all the political parties who will be part of the government must agree on the reforms listed in CEDRE".
Asked about the future of the Middle East, he said: "We must focus on our peoples and growth in our countries, but we must not forget to develop ourselves. This is the only way to create a new economic reality in the Middle East. Today, the world is competing economically. Even wars today revolve around who will infiltrate the markets of the other. I believe that what Saudi Arabia is doing under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Crown Prince is essential. As you know, I lived and grew up in the kingdom, and I have not seen this energy before. Perhaps we needed to change. As the Crown Prince of Bahrain said, this change is contaminating others, all countries surrounding the Kingdom, whether Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, or even Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia and Morocco, are witnessing the development of their economic sectors.
When we focus on our national and Arab economy and joint Arab cooperation, we will be able to achieve growth. We as Arabs in this Middle East must cooperate to become a great economic power.
This success achieved by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the transformation that it is witnessing, will create many enviers. We will witness ups and downs, and this is something that we all go through. We pray God to protect this country and protect the Arabs and the Middle East."
Source: National News Agency