The pledges made by donors towards rebuilding a battered Lebanon carry a political as well as a monetary value. The western-backed government of Fouad Siniora has its side of the bargain. Experts say it will have to implement unpopular economic reforms if it wants to receive the aid. It will involve privatisation, which will anger the opposition, notably Hizbollah.
In a country already deep in a political crisis, many members of the public are sceptical: “We’ve had Paris 3, and before that Paris 1 and 2 but we didn’t see anything happen. It was a waste of time. People are dying; they have no food, drink, work, nothing”
The most generous contributors are Saudi Arabia and the US. Some say they will have the most say in the reconstruction process. Qatar and Hizbollah donations have already been made, but their influence is now eclipsed. Former finance minister George Crom points to the inflated cost of rebuilding. “The government has tried to give a very bleak picture for domestic in-fight reasons and to please the outside world, the western world, that is supporting him, saying that all this is the result of Hizbollah action and that this has to change. This is a larger battle and it is to be looked at within the American strategy of fighting terrorism.”
Crom believes the real cost should not exceed two and a half billion euros. That’s less than half the total pledged in Paris. Lebanon will now have the financial means to reconstruct its ruined buildings. But many fear the money alone cannot restore its political foundations.