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World News

New Lebanese government to prepare statement on policy goals

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s new government will start preparing its policy statement on Monday, it said on Saturday, as investors monitor commitment to reforms aimed at boosting the economy.

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Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri told reporters he expected the cabinet to agree it quickly and that it would resemble previous statements, avoiding areas of dispute between coalition members.

He added that the statement would affirm the reforms he promised at an international donors meeting last year, which could unlock billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.

“There are difficult decisions in all areas that we must take,” he said, after the first meeting of the coalition cabinet.

Public debt is 50 percent bigger than the size of the economy and annual growth has averaged 1-2 percent for years.

It took rival parties nearly nine months to agree on the make-up of the cabinet after May’s election, apportioning portfolios according to party strength and a delicate sectarian power balance.

A committee formed by the cabinet to start preparing the statement will meet on Monday and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said it will present this within a week.

Foreign donors have pledged aid and low-interest loans to help the economy by investing in Lebanon’s inadequate infrastructure, but they have tied the money to reforms.

At the Paris conference last year in which the pledges were made, Hariri promised to reduce the deficit as a percentage of GDP by 5 percent in five years.

He said on Saturday the biggest of Lebanon’s problems was its high spending on an inadequate electricity system. A World Bank official on Friday urged Lebanon to prioritize power sector reform.

Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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