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A Better Future For Lebanon Must Start From Within

Al-Hayat, London, April 6

As an international conference to generate investment in Lebanon convenes in Paris this week, some of us here, in Lebanon, have renewed hope for our country. Representatives from over 50 nations have already committed to attending the summit, which has been organized at the behest of French President Emmanuel Macron, one of Lebanon’s closest international allies. This first-of-its-kind event is not a classic donor conference aimed at raising aid for Lebanon; rather, its goal is to encourage investment across a wide range of sectors—from improving waste management practices to building new roads to developing clean energy—in order to enhance the country’s development. By sponsoring the conference President Macron has reaffirmed his commitment to the Lebanese people, and most notably, to Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun. The reciprocal visits and meetings between these leaders in recent months are a testament to the close relationship between Paris and Beirut. But not everything about this conference is encouraging. When asked about it, the vast majority of Lebanese people expressed a negative outlook. With the recent political deadlock in the country and the upcoming presidential elections, most citizens have grown tired of their reality. They are fed up with corruption and crony politics, which have plagued Lebanon over the past few decades. They have little, if any, faith that things will actually change for the better. Thus, while the Paris conference is a step forward, it is not enough. International investments in the Lebanese economy, no matter how large, can never make up for a lagging civil society and the absence of a desire to change the status quo. The Lebanese government has failed to reform a single element of the economy, and, despite the country’s high level of literacy, has failed to transform the education system. Despite the international support Lebanon receives, the level of corruption in government is matched only by countries like Botswana and Rwanda. Yes, Prime Minister Hariri’s friendship with President Macron is admirable; so too is the latter’s willingness to host this event. Yet change must also come from within. Otherwise, no amount of international backing will help us build a better future. – Ranya Takya al-Din

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