BEIRUT: Lebanon may not get sufficient funds from the donor states to cope with the huge influx of Syrian refugees to the country, caretaker Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi said Thursday.
Safadi made the statement in Washington after meeting with the U.S Assistant Secretary of Treasury Marisa Lago.
“I am afraid that Lebanon will not receive the required assistance,” the minister said.
Lebanon has been urging international donors to send urgent financial assistance to help it weather the effects of the huge number of Syrian refugees who have fled fighting in their country.
The World Bank said in a report that the presence of the Syrian refugees could cost the Lebanese economy more than $7 billion and that Lebanon does not have the financial means and resources to cope with the influx.
The report added that Lebanon needed billions of dollars to help it absorb the Syrian refugees and enlist thousands of school-aged children in public schools.
The Interior Ministry estimates the number of Syrian refugees at more than 1.3 million and there are indications this figure could reach 2 million – half Lebanon’s precrisis population – if the war in Syria persists.
Safadi, who met with officials from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, also said the problem of the Syrian refugees was causing negative economic and social implications which Lebanon was not equipped to cope with.
“The events in Syria have also caused deep political division in Lebanon accompanied with security incidents. We have managed to maintain stability in the country so far.”
Safadi said there was enormous pressure on the budget due to the rise in spending to secure the social and educational needs of Syrian refugees at a time when government revenues were falling.
There is concern that the budget deficit will exceed the target set by the Finance Ministry if expenditures continue to rise drastically.
“The budget deficit has so far reached $3.2 billion and we are committed not to make this deficit reach the $4 billion ceiling,” Safadi said.
He feared that the presence of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon could last for several years.
Lebanon has received pledges from some Western and Arab countries to assist it to cope with the situation but these promises have so far fallen short of the desired goals.
Safadi did not say how much the United States offered Lebanon.
The minister and his team will also take part in the IMF and World Bank meetings which will start Friday.
Lebanon will seek the IMF and World Bank’s help to reduce the budget deficit and increase state revenues.
The IMF has not issued a report on the performance of the Lebanese economy and the state of the treasury since 2011.