BEIRUT: Projects agreed at the upcoming CEDRE conference will create an estimated 900,000 jobs in Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Sunday.
He also said the international conference, to be held in Paris on April 6 to secure funding and support mechanisms for a multibillion-dollar investment plan, would secure “positive” economic investment. Hariri was speaking at a rally after meeting former Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the latter’s Moseitbeh residence.
“There are those saying the conference will increase our debt, but it will secure jobs and investment for the economy,” Hariri said. Lebanon is seeking to court investment for dozens of infrastructure projects at the conference, set to be attended by 50 nations and groups. Unlike previous Paris donor conferences, Lebanon is looking for favorable loans and private investment partnerships rather than aid money.
Hariri’s conversation with Salam focused on elections, local media reported. Salam is running on a joint “the Future is for Beirut” electoral list with Hariri in Beirut II in upcoming parliamentary elections – the first in nine years - slated for May 6. Both talked to a crowd of supporters outside Salam’s house after the sit-down. Salam called on voters to cast ballots strictly for Hariri’s list.
“We have removed terrorists from Tripoli and from [the northeastern town of] Arsal ... I have always stood hand in hand with Hariri,” Salam said. Salam stood as an independent candidate in 2009 although was close with Future.
Hariri, in turn, called for high turnout in order to secure seats. “[The similar turnout as] 2009 will not be enough this time, then it was 48 percent, now I call on you for [60 to 75 percent].”
The premier was likely referencing the uncertainty brought with the new proportional electoral law that includes preferential voting. The law replaced an old majoritarian system, and is widely expected to result in districts being split between more parties than under the winner takes all. Joking about the law’s complexity, Hariri said “we kind of understand it, but there still some things we don’t get.”
In an indirect reference to those criticizing him for not having a tougher stance on Hezbollah, Hariri said “if I don’t talk to Hezbollah, who do I talk to? ... Discussions are held with people we disagree with.”
In reference to the color of his Future Movement, the PM ended his address asking the crowd: “What color is Beirut? Blue or not blue?”