Lebanon prepares for Syria’s post-war construction windfall

Tripoli, Lebanon

The port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon wants the world to know it’s ready for business. British safety managers are training local hires to operate heavy machinery and Chinese technicians are running diagnostics on two new container cranes that tower over the harbor, just 28 kilometers (18 miles) from the Syrian border.
After six years of civil war in Syria, markets across the Middle East are anticipating a mammoth reconstruction boom that could stimulate billions of dollars in economic activity. Lebanon, as Syria’s neighbor, is in prime position to capture a share of that windfall and revive its own sluggish economy.
Battles still rage in Syria’s north and east, and in pockets around the capital, Damascus, but the survival of President Bashar Assad’s government now appears beyond doubt.
That is introducing an element of stability into forecasts not seen since 2011, when the war broke out. The Damascus International Fair, a high-profile annual business event before the war, is to open on Thursday for the first time since war broke out, with participants from 43 countries.
The World Bank estimates the cost to rebuild Syria at $200 billion. For Lebanon, that could be just the stimulus it needs — the tiny Mediterranean country’s growth rate has hovered around 1.5 percent since 2013. And though the capital, Beirut, has grown visibly richer over the years, Tripoli and the impoverished north have lagged behind.
“Lebanon is in front of an opportunity that it needs to take very seriously,” said Raya Al-Hassan, a former finance minister from northern Lebanon who now directs.—AP

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