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French Version

CDR boss says reconstruction can start as soon as war ends

Some funds are already on the way to finance recovery

The vast destruction of infrastructure and properties caused by the Israeli strikes on Lebanon will be countered by a massive building effort immediately following the cessation of hostilities, a top development official said Thursday. The initial cost of the destruction was estimated by Fadel Shalak, chairman of the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR), at more than $2.5 billion.

"This war has ruined everything the previous governments built over the past few years," Shalak told The Daily Star. "But what is certain is that the rebuilding of these areas will kick off immediately once a real cease-fire is declared."

Shalak said that funding for reconstruction would not be a problem for Lebanon because some Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have already pledged over a $1 billion toward the purpose.

Shalak said Lebanese contractors will be very busy in the next three years and these projects will help revive their sector.

"In addition, the CDR has billions of dollars in soft loans for this purpose," Shalak said. "We hope that reconstruction will trigger some growth in the coming years."

Lebanese economists echoed similar views.

"Rebuilding the devastated infrastructure in Lebanon will help achieve economic growth in the medium- and long-terms and give a shot in the arm of the contracting sector," economist Marwan Iskandar said.

But Iskandar ruled out any major rebuilding this year, even if a cease-fire were declared within a few days.

"It will take several months to clear the rubble in different areas and this means that the GDP will be on the negative side," Iskandar said.

Dozens of villages and towns in the South alone were flattened to the ground due to the intense bombardment from the air, sea and land.

In addition bridges, roads and public installations have been targeted by Israeli jets in the North and the Bekaa Valley.

But experts say that Beirut's southern suburbs, home for 500,000 mostly Shiite residents, bore the brunt of the Israeli attacks, leaving most parts of this area in total ruin.

"We are talking about building a new city in this area alone. But no one knows for sure how will this city look," Shalak said.

One contractor wondered who would finance the rebuilding of the suburbs and whether Hizbullah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, would raise money for this purpose.

Shalak pledged to issue a report on the total damages once a week until the crisis ends.

He said reconstruction efforts would take two years to complete if all political, financial and technical requirements were met.

The CDR report estimated the transport sector damages at $386 million.

The cost of damage to bridges amounted to $262 million, with some bridges completely destroyed.

As to main roads, the cost exceeded $70 million, with the international highways sustaining heavy damage.

In addition, the damage to the electricity sector was estimated at some $180 million, with $80 million from the destruction of production and fuel-storage sites.

The cost of damage to industrial sectors is seen as more than $150 million and industrialists say more than 40 plants have been raided by the Israelis.

"The construction work will not add to the infrastructure capital because what we are doing is building what has been destroyed and not building new structures," Iskander said.

He added that construction will help create more jobs.

"Carpenters, painters, glass makers and manufacturers will be kept very busy once the reconstruction starts," he said.

But Iskandar said that the government wants to see a positive political signs from all sides before commencing with the projects.

Many investors made it clear that no money would be spent in Lebanon if the country's Southern border with Israel remains tense.

Beirut 04-08-2006
Osama Habib
The Daily Star

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