Grants, not loans are needed in Lebanon

Grants, not loans is what the Middle East needs in order to deal with the millions of refugees who have fled conflicts in the region, a senior Lebanese official said Sunday.

The director general of the Lebanese finance ministry, Alain Bifani, commented on the UN and World Bank announced plans to increase lending to help the region deal with the catastrophic spillover of conflicts in Syria and beyond. He said aid should be interest-free and received as a grant.

“The support has to be through grants. It cannot be loans,” Bifani told AFP on the sidelines of the World Bank and IMF annual meetings in Lima, Peru.

“As long as we can, we will turn down loans” for dealing with the refugee crisis, he said.

Although much recent attention has focused on Europe’s struggles to deal with the influx of uprooted Syrians, the war-torn country’s neighbors have taken in the bulk of the more than four million people who have fled the nearly five-year conflict, straining their economies.

Lebanon alone is hosting more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees. Bifani estimated the total cost at more than $15 billion, one-third of Lebanon’s GDP.