BEIRUT: The World Bank president acknowledged the incredible strain Lebanon is under due to the refugee crisis, supporting Prime Minister Tamman Salam's appeal for urgent international aid.
At a donor meeting in Beirut's Grand Serail, Prime Minister Tammam Salam Tuesday called on governments of the world to immediately support Lebanon in order to rescue the country’s weak economy.
“ Lebanon is in need for massive and speedy support from the international community in order to prevent an economic collapse,” Salam said. Lebanon is “incapable of bearing alone the burden of Syrian refuges.”
Salam, who chaired the meeting, said he would seize the opportunity of a visit by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim to “appeal to friendly governments to continue to provide aid to Lebanon.”
“And I thank in advance the countries that will join this initiative,” Salam told participants at the meeting.
Kim, in turn, expressed his “solidarity and admiration for the tremendous efforts that the government of Lebanon and the people of Lebanon have made in absorbing a staggering number of refugees.”
“When I visited a social services center this morning, I felt the strain of the very, very well-trained staff efforts to deal with the influx,” he said at the meeting.
“There’s a rising sense of resentment among the people of Lebanon as they find themselves losing their jobs, unable to pay their rent. As they find themselves in an increasingly difficult situation without receiving assistance. Being able to see this directly in front of me was a sobering, yet inspiring experience,” he added.
Before taking part in the donor meeting, Kim visited a social development center and a Syrian refugee school in Burj Hammoud and then met with Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil.
Kim is scheduled to hold an open debate with Lebanese youth at the Education Ministry before a 5 p.m. news conference at the Movenpick hotel in Beirut.
Kim, who arrived in Beirut Monday, said his visit was the first by a World Bank president to Lebanon in 14 years.
He said the purpose of his trip was to discuss ways to meet the urgent needs of the country particularly in terms of reform in various sectors, encourage economic growth and plan long and short-term strategic plans.
Meanwhile, U.N. Special Coordinator in Lebanon Derek Plumbly said the World Bank Trust Fund for host communities and the government was “up and running” and included donors and the United Nations.
“[The fund] is the only one established specifically to provide assistance to the government and municipalities, established specifically to mitigate the impact of the Syrian crisis,” Plumbly said during the conference.
“We very much hope that it will attract more contributions in addition to the excellent help that has been forthcoming so far from Norway, from Finland, from France and I should add from the World Bank itself,” he said.
Plumbly noted that the assistance to Lebanon had so far been minimal compared to the need.
“It is true that there have been delays in putting in place some of the mechanisms which were envisaged in the original International Support Group conclusions, the Roadmap, getting it up and running and agreed collectively; and the Trust Fund,” he said.