The Lebanese government is on track to take practical steps to privatize several state-owned companies as part of reforms it has pledged to undertake at the CEDRE conference held in Paris last year.
Foreign governments and donor institutions pledged $11 billion in financing to Lebanon for a 12-year infrastructure investment program at the conference, on condition that it carries out reforms.
The government’s privatization attempts were revealed on Friday when Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that the temporary management committee at the Port of Beirut will be scrapped and replaced with a private company or a public-private partnership.
No local political party objects the privatization of state facilities, at least in public.
The move involves transferring the ownership or management of a public institution, totally or partially to the private sector.
Several sectors in Lebanon have been previously privatized. But former minister Fadi Abboud and economic expert Jassem Ajaka did not express pride in the moves.
They insisted that the government should engage in a more “transparent” privatization, through a list of conditions.
“Privatization could inject $30 to $40 billion to the state treasury in case it is implemented in a number of facilities such as the airport, the port, the telecommunications sector, Middle East Airlines and the education sector,” Abboud told Asharq Al-Awsat.
He said officials plan to keep the largest share (around 51 percent) with the government, which will not be welcomed by citizens because of lack of trust in the Lebanese authorities.