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On Refugees, UN's Plumbly Speaks for Lebanon, Belgian Rotation

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 12 -- When the UN's Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly came to take questions outside the UN Security Council on November 12, he lavished praise on Saudi Arabia's financial contribution to the Army. He said on a range of topics, it is not my decision to make, it is for the people of Lebanon.

  Inner City Press asked Plumbly about the following headline, "Plumbly Rules Out Naturalization of Syrian Refugees." If such decisions are truly for the people of Lebanon, is it for Plumbly to rule anything out, or in?

  Rather than clarify the headline, Plumbly said yes, that is his position. He said it's a matter for the people of Lebanon, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. But while he's free to note that Lebanon and some others have not wanted to sign the 1951 Refugees Convention, should Plumbly so openly say it's fine not to sign it?

  Appearing with Plumbly, at least at the beginning of his question and answer stakeout, was Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan, president of the Security Council for November. While there were consultation in the morning on Liberia, no questions were taken on that topic. (In fairness, Quinlan has made an effort to take questions after nearly all other consultations, so we'll see.)

  Inner City Press also asked Plumbly about the withdrawal from UNIFIL of Belgium's 100 plus peacekeepers. He said they were in de-mining, and rotations are routine. But who's coming in?

Back on July 31, in the International Monetary Fund's then just released Lebanon report the word Syria appeared no less than 59 times, blamed for nearly everything. But the report at page 6 acknowledges:

Lebanon could not create sufficient jobs even before the Syria crisis. According to the World Bank, only some 3,800 jobs were generated per year (one for every six new entrants to the labor market) in 2005–09. Reflecting insufficient job opportunities, the unemployment rate stood at 11 percent in 2011, slightly above the MENA average of 10 percent. Like in the MENA region, unemployment was much higher among the youth -- over one third of labor force participants aged 15 - 24 are unemployed. Around half of the labor force was employed in the informal sector.”

The IMF opined, “Without a resolution in Syria, economic performance is expected to remain weak.” But what kind of resolution?

As good news, the IMF said

Lebanon might become a commodity producer over the next decade, with petroleum set to be an important source of government revenue. Recent seismic surveys suggest that Lebanon’s oil and gas resources could be in excess of 25 trillion cubic feet (tcf). While not particularly large by international standards, this estimate still points to the potential for a substantial revenue increase for many years (though not starting before 2020 at the earliest).”

For now, on delinquent loans held by Lebanese banks, the IMF “staff called for an improvement of loan classification and restructuring rules. The increase in loans under watch and the widespread use of overdrafts warrant tighter rules guiding the classification of NPLs and the restructuring of loans, including re-aging of overdrafts and arrears” (Yesterday Inner City Press reported on Cyprus non-performing loans and the foreclosure scheme the IMF is demanding, here.)

Also on Lebanese banks, the IMF “encouraged progress on the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. A better understanding of the source of deposits and adequate identification of beneficial owners would allow more effective monitoring of transactions and strengthening of risk-based supervision—necessary to enhance the integrity of the financial sector.”

The IMF report contains as an annex a “Statement by Mr. Shaalan on behalf of the Lebanese authorities” -- of whom while there the IMF met with Prime Minister Salam, Minister of Finance Khalil, Governor of the Banque du Liban (BdL) Salame -- the IMF met with that says “Lebanon’s AML/CFT regime is in practice fully compliant with international standards, and Lebanon’s financial intelligence unit, the Special Investigation Commission, actively cooperates with its foreign counterparts.” We'll see. Watch this site.


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