|Azour laments effect of political feud on economy, investment
|Finance Minister Jihad Azour on Tuesday expressed fear that Lebanon may fail to attract all the investment it could because of continuing political deadlock. Speaking at the opening of the sixth Business Opportunities in Lebanon conference organized by Lebanon Opportunities magazine, Azour said that the political debate over the distribution of the ministerial portfolios should not turn into a fight for spoils.
Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora has been unsuccessfully trying for more than a month to form a unity cabinet due to bickering between the opposition and ruling coalition over the sharing of posts.
Azour said that the next government should liberalize the telecom sector as this step would generate large funds for the country in the form of taxes.
"The politicians should distance themselves from the telecom sector," he told the participants in the two-day conference.
Lebanon's two cellular networks were supposed to be privatized in 2007 but the tense political situation and occasional security incidents have derailed these efforts.
Outgoing Telecommunication Minister Marwan Hamadaeh has said that Lebanon would be able to fetch up to $6 billion from the privatization of the two cellular networks.
"One of the top priorities of the new government should be the development of the economy and the implementation of laws that would encourage direct investments in Lebanon," Azour said.
He stressed that the government must also continue the reforms that were approved at Paris III donor conference.
The minister repeated his call to plug mounting losses at Electricite du Liban (EDL).
"We cannot continue spending $1.5 billion on EDL each year," Azour said, adding that this sector was not even providing sufficient electricity to the entire country.
The minister also asserted that the government should improve social benefits to citizens.
The Daily Star