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It is my great pleasure to welcome you here in Beirut today to the 19th EIB Med conference, dedicated to “Investing in a Resilient and Inclusive Future” in the EU Mediterranean Partner Countries.
I also would like to thank Prime Minister Hariri who agreed to open the works today but - unfortunately - had to go to Paris for the funeral of President Chirac, a close friend of Lebanon and a great connoisseur of the region. He was also a great European leader, and we will all mourn him.
Let me begin by thanking the Council for Development and Reconstruction for their collaboration in the organisation of this event.
I would also like to extend my thanks, and a particular welcome, to His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan and to Her Excellency Egyptian Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Dr. Sahar Nasr.
I am very pleased that they have been able to join us today and I am sure they will make a great contribution to the event.
The past few years have seen a number of positive developments in the EU Mediterranean Partner Countries. Financial and social reforms are underway. Moreover, growth has picked up in some countries like Egypt in which GDP is expected to rise by 5-6% a year.
Nevertheless, the overall region still suffers from sluggish recovery, witnessed by real GDP growth rates around 2-3% accompanied by dangerously high unemployment rates, sometimes above 10%. This is particularly concerning given more than 25 million new people will enter the region’s labour market in the next 5 years.
In this context, today, more than ever, the region needs to accelerate the pace of reforms and to attract more investments.
One year after our gathering in Amman, this new edition of the EIB MED, here in Lebanon, takes place, again at the right time.
It is the right place, as we are all fully conscious of the many challenges Lebanon is facing, both internally and in regional terms, in particular on the socio-economic front.
And, together with our European partners, we engaged strongly during the CEDRE conference, in April last year, confirming our readiness to contribute actively to the implementation of the ambitious Capital Investment Programme.
And it is the right time, as we welcome the most recent announcements in Paris to accelerate the implementation of the CEDRE.
We strongly encourage you on this difficult trajectory towards sustainability. To unlock international support, it is fundamental that progress is achieved on three fronts: (i) on macro-fiscal stability and sectorial regulation; (ii) on the transparency and certainty of the timing of the administrative procedures; and (iii) on the speed of implementation of the projects. These three ingredients are needed to restore confidence in the market and for donors.
The “CIP” is an excellent framework providing us all - partners of Lebanon -clear guidelines on YOUR priorities. But I believe that, in order to turn it into a full success, it has to be accompanied with strategic reforms according to the three key drivers above.
This will facilitate strategic investments, and strategic investments will come in support of priority sectors and tangible action. It is therefore of utmost importance for reforms to be implemented, as a solid basis for international support to be unlocked.
Together reforms and investments can boost economies of the region to build a resilient and inclusive future and resilient economies that respond better to the needs of people and absorb any external shocks.
In 2016, the EIB launched the “Economic Resilience Initiative” to deploy additional lending of 4.5 billion euro until 2020 in the region. This brings the total expected support by the EIB to the Region to a total of around 12 billion euro for the period 2014-2020, including in particular 2.1 billion euro for higher risk, higher social impact financing to support the private sector. We calculate our resources will mobilise additional investments for two to three times the amount, i.e. 30/40 billion euro.
An inclusive future is where no one is left behind, all benefit from investments and improved services.
Enhancing the prospects for more inclusive growth — with accessible opportunities for sustainable employment, particularly for young people and women — is vital to raise living standards, to underpin stability, and to offer an alternative to economic migration out of the region.
To date, our ERI initiative has helped to sustain about 300,000 jobs in the region, given 4.5 million people to access drinkable water, and enabled more than 400,000 people each day to use modern and safe urban transport. And this is, in our eyes, what ultimately counts: the fact that we are serving people and citizens, in a direct, sustainable and inclusive manner
And yet, in the Mediterranean partner countries there is a vast potential for investments in a resilient and inclusive future.
At the EIB, we place great emphasis on providing appropriate support to our long-standing partners in the region.
The numbers speak for themselves: we have invested over 35 billion euro to public and private sectors in forty years, mobilising around 100 billion euro.
Since 2015, we have responded to the growing needs of the region and provided close to 6 billion out of which 2.9 billion euro is additional finance under ERI.
Let me highlight few examples, which we will have the opportunity to discuss today:
In the area of energy transition and the development of renewable energy we supported one of the major priorities of Morocco and saw the completion of the Noor Ouarzazate project, one of the biggest solar power complexes in the world, thanks to a 220 million euro loan.
In Egypt, we have been investing in access to water and sanitation, where we also had a record year in 2018, through the signature of our 210 million euro loan to the major Kitchener Drain project, which will reduce pollution and improve sanitation and solid waste services for 6 million people.
We continue to support the 2020 objectives under Tunisia’s 5-year investment plan, with the aim to provide up to 2.5 billion euro of support by 2020, and this in a large range of sectors, in particular in innovation, digitalisation and, more generally, in support of innovative companies, in particular through the European Union programme INNOVFIN.
Alongside the Jordanian government, we back its comprehensive priorities, to which EIB committed to contribute up to about 870 million euro until 2020, in particular through projects like “Deir Alla Water Supply and Sanitation” extending water services to more than 85,000 Jordanians and refugees alike.
Last but not least, we are enhancing our support to Palestine, having invested USD 18 million to finance the installation of rooftop photovoltaic systems on 500 public schools in the West Bank, a project carried out in partnership with the Palestine Investment Fund. It will generate 35 MW of clean energy, in fact enough to power more than 16,000 homes across the West Bank.
What is particularly important is that the EIB is able to offer not only lending, but also blending of different types of financing (grants and loans) as well as advisory services and technical expertise. The combination of these tools enables the EIB to boost the impact of projects we support.
Speaking of this I must thank the European Commission and EU donors for grants available to support the implementation of ERI.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We seek to improve the economic resilience of the region in many ways. Supporting the private sector is also an important area. The 485 million euro Lebanon private sector resilience facility is a good example. The facility provides funding to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and mid-caps through credit lines to our local partners. This will support the economic resilience of the Lebanese economy with a particular focus on sustaining and creating jobs. The project will improve competitiveness and access to finance at favourable conditions for SMEs and mid-caps in Lebanon.
The EIB is often associated with big infrastructures, but we are diversifying our investments and reach every sector of the economy. We are therefore announcing today the EIB commitment to the Enda Tamweel in Tunisia. Here, the EIB is investing the equivalent of 9 million euro in local currency to support microfinance in Tunisia. EIB resources will provide access to finance for micro/small enterprises specifically targeting women, youth, refugees and poor populations living in rural areas.
This EIB contribution will be coupled with investments from other EU financial institutions.
One other example is the Eco-campus of the EuroMed University of Fes in Morocco, aiming to host over 6,000 students representing diverse nationalities in the Euro-Mediterranean region and Sub-Saharan Africa. This project, which comes under the initiative of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, represents a good example of collaboration between the EIB, the Union for Mediterranean and with contributions from international, European and Moroccan financial partners.
As you are aware, Lebanon is a priority country of operation for EIB, and as such, we aim at further develop our activities which started already in 1979. Today, EIB investments in the country amount to more than 2 billion euro, predominantly in the water, energy and transport sectors. Looking ahead, we have a long pipeline of projects in the water and sanitation, renewable energy, public transport, microfinance and risk capital-equity funds.
For example (i) 92 million euro for the Greater Tripoli Basin Wastewater Networks, which will improve sanitation for 900,000 habitants of Tripoli; (ii) 110 million euro for two onshore wind farms in the North East of the country, which will allow the country to meet its renewable energy targets for 2030; (iii) 170 million euro for the rehabilitation and improvements of national and regional roads; (iv) 4.5million euro to support local microfinance project in remote areas.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends and partners, we will have the opportunity today to exchange further on the various dimensions of our collective action, and I am looking forward to this frank and engaged exchange of thoughts.
As neighbours and friends, we are here together to continue our longstanding and constructive dialogue, with two words in mind, “hope” and “resolve”: our guiding principles. And as partners we will be on your side in good but also in hard times.
Let me thank you all, again, for your participation, and for your active contributions today, and I wish you an excellent EIB Med 2019!