French President Emmanuel Macron is satisfied with Beirut's progress on starting an infrastructure investment program, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's press office said on Friday, a day after a French envoy criticized the speed at which Lebanon is reforming its economy.
Foreign governments and donor institutions last year pledged $11 billion in financing to Lebanon for a 12-year infrastructure investment program at the CEDRE conference in Paris, on condition that it carries out reforms.
Hariri’s office said in a statement Friday that the PM received a telephone call from Macron, who “expressed his satisfaction with the progress made towards launching the CEDRE investment projects.”
Macron called Hariri after French diplomat Pierre Duquesne concluded a four-day visit to Lebanon to assess Beirut's progress on starting work on the infrastructure projects and other reforms.
Duquesne himself said that the donors' funding offers still stand, but stressed that Lebanese authorities need to speed up reforms, pass a state budget for 2020 this year and decide which of the 250 infrastructure projects will take priority.
"Donors are still ready to help, provided that things happen in the required and right way," he said.
Funding has not yet begun to flow, he said, because Lebanon was without a government for nine months following elections last year.
"And even after (government) formation, donors continue to question the Lebanese government. This view is shared by all donors," Duquesne said.
He was also critical of how some Lebanese politicians were approaching the urgency of the economic problems in the country.
"Some people still believe that there is a miracle solution, a magical solution to solve all the problems. This does not exist."
"Time is running out and we cannot continue with the endless debates," he added.
On Monday Lebanese politicians declared a "state of economic emergency” and Hariri said the government would take emergency measures to speed up reforms, including holding more meetings.
With one of the world's highest debt burdens, low growth and crumbling infrastructure, Lebanon's economy is struggling and authorities are seeking to implement reforms to ward off a crisis.
During Thursday’s phone call, “Macron also stressed France's commitment to Lebanon's stability and security, the strengthening of its state and institutions and the importance of preserving calm on the southern border,” Hariri’s office said.
The frontier between the two countries has remained calm since Israel and Hezbollah traded fire on Sunday.