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 Mohammed Safadi said Thursday.
Sadadi made this remarks 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 the international donors to send urgent financial assistance to weather the negative effects of the big number of Syrian refugees who 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, adding that Lebanon does not have the financial means and resources to help these refugees.
It added that Lebanon needs billions of dollars to allow Lebanon absorb the Syrian refugees and enlist thousands of Syrian students enlist in public schools.
The Ministry of interior estimates the number of Syrian refugees at more than 1.3 million and there are indications that this figure could reach two million or half the size of the population, if the crisis in Syria persisted.
Safadi, who met with officials from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, also said that the problem of the Syrian refugees is causing negative economic and social implications which Lebanon cannot 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,” he added.
Safadi said there is enormous pressure on the budget due to the rise spending to secure the social and educational needs of the 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 continued 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 Syrian refugees but these promises fell short from 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.