A chemical explosion in the port last August killed around 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed entire neighborhoods of the Lebanese capital, plunging the country deeper into its worst political and economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war. .
According to two diplomatic sources familiar with the plans, Germany and France are fighting over reconstruction efforts. On April 7, Berlin will present a proposal that the European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed to help finance the clean-up of the area and the reconstruction of facilities, they said.
One source estimated EIB financing in the range of 2 to 3 billion euros (2.4 to 3.6 billion dollars).
A senior Lebanese official confirmed that Germany should present a comprehensive proposal for the reconstruction of the port.
Neither the German Foreign Ministry nor consultancy firm Roland Berger, which diplomatic sources said drew up the plan, immediately responded to Reuters requests for comment. The EIB was not immediately available for comment, Reuters reported.
The two diplomatic sources said the Lebanese political elite must first agree on the composition of a new government to fix public finances and eradicate corruption, a condition on which donors including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), also insist before unblocking. billions of dollars in aid.
“This plan will not be done without conditions,” said one of the sources. “Germany and France want first to see a government in place committed to the implementation of reforms. There is no other way around it and it is good for Lebanon. ”
Eight months after the port disaster, many Lebanese who lost their families, homes and businesses are still awaiting the results of an investigation into the causes of the explosion. The Lebanese economy is on the verge of collapse, with buyers arguing over goods, protesters blocking roads and businesses closed.
Foreign donors have said the new government must have a firm mandate to implement economic reforms, including a central bank audit and an overhaul of the wasteful energy sector.
Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun were unable to agree on a ministerial composition. The outgoing cabinet, which resigned after the explosion, remained on an interim basis.
The IMF said there had been no formal discussions with Lebanese officials about a loan program, only technical assistance with the finance ministry and some state-owned enterprises.
In addition to the port, Germany’s proposal would seek to redevelop more than 100 hectares (247 acres) in the surrounding area in a project which the two diplomatic sources said would be structured on the model of the post-war reconstruction of the central Beirut.
As in this redevelopment, the plan would involve the creation of a publicly traded company similar to Solidere, which was created by former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in the 1990s and which remains on the Lebanon Stock Exchange.
The sources put the cost of the project at between $ 5 billion and $ 15 billion and said it could create up to 50,000 jobs.
The Lebanese official said France and French ports and container shipping group CMA CGM are also interested in the reconstruction project.
One of the diplomatic sources noted that France had sent several missions, including one in March that included CMA CGM, which showed an interest in playing a role in the reconstruction. This mission focused on clean-up operations rather than a larger redevelopment, the source said.
France’s foreign ministry declined to comment immediately and CMA CGM declined to comment, Reuters reported.
The Lebanese official said that the start of the project would depend on the agreement of the Europeans who would lead it.
“It’s a European decision at the end of the day, because they have to decide it among themselves. Then when it comes to that, the Lebanese government can move forward, ”the official said.
Diplomatic sources said Germany wanted to work closely with France on the issue, but Paris was pursuing its own initiatives for the time being.
“The irony of it all is that, on the one hand, the Europeans are talking about putting pressure on the political class, while on the other, they are fighting over these potential contracts while the vultures are still spinning,” he said. ‘One. Two.