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Cablegate: Lebanon: Parliament Open; Not Clear When It Will Take Up

VZCZCXRO3192
RR RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #1281/01 2461333
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021333Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2898
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 001281

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ELA
STATE PASS USTR
TREASURY FOR MNUGENT AND SBLEIWEISS
USDOC FOR 4520/ITA/MAC/ONE
NSC FOR ABRAMS/RAMCHAND/YERGER/MCDERMOTT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN PREL PGOV LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: PARLIAMENT OPEN; NOT CLEAR WHEN IT WILL TAKE UP
IPR LEGISLATION (ECONOMIC WEEK IN REVIEW, AUGUST 25 - 31, 2008)

CONTENTS
--------

-- IPR RELATED LEGISLATION STILL PENDING IN PARLIAMENT
-- LEBANON TO PURCHASE EGYPTIAN ELECTRICITY TO REDUCE POWER CUTS
-- CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION OF STATISTICS LAUNCHES CHILDREN AND WOMEN
SURVEY
-- EC: LEBANON HAS PROGRESSED IN SIMPLIFYING TRADE
-- KUWAITI FUND LAUNCHES DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS IN THE SOUTH
-- EFG HERMES ESTIMATES 3.5 PERCENT GROWTH IN 2008
-- LEBANON RANKS 60 GLOBALLY IN ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE INDEX
-- NUMBER OF TOURISTS TO REACH TWO MILLION A YEAR BY 2020


IPR RELATED LEGISLATION
STILL PENDING IN PARLIAMENT
--------------------

1. (SBU) A senior legal trade specialist at the Ministry of Economy
and Trade (MOET) told us on August 27 that, although parliament has
reopened, it is not known yet if there will be progress on
IPR-related draft laws and amendments that were sent to parliament
in 2007. These include an amendment to the copyright law, and new
draft laws on geographical indications, trademark, and industrial
design. The draft legislation must be still studied by the relevant
parliamentary committees. Priority is being given to passing the
electoral law during the current parliamentary session, after which
all other pending legislation will be considered, she said.

2. (SBU) One pending question, said the MOET official, is whether
Speaker Berri will confirm receipt of these draft laws and
amendments, which were sent to parliament when it was not
functioning. At the time, Speaker Berri did not acknowledge receipt
because he considered the cabinet that sent them illegitimate. The
fact that Berri stated, right after President Sleiman was elected,
that parliament would now focus on laws related to Paris III, may be
a positive sign that Berri may accept and take into consideration
legislation that was sent to parliament when it was closed, she
said.

LEBANON WILL PURCHASE EGYPTIAN
ELECTRICITY TO REDUCE POWER CUTS
--------------------

3. (SBU) During PM Siniora's visit to Egypt on August 27, Lebanon
signed an agreement with Egypt for the purchase of surplus
electricity, implementing one of the measures pledged in the
ministerial policy statement. However, the GOL still needs to
negotiate the price with the Egyptian authorities, and is asking for
preferential rates as a sign of Egypt's support to Lebanon. So far,
however, the Egyptians are asking for "exorbitant" rates, according
to Lebanese Energy Minister Tabourian. Lebanon will also study a
Jordanian offer for additional power supply in order to reduce
severe power rationing all over Lebanon. In recent months, people
have taken to the streets in several regions, burning tires and
blocking roads, to protest severe power outages.

CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION OF STATISTICS
LAUNCHES CHILDREN AND WOMEN SURVEY
--------------------

4. (U) On August 28, the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS),
in collaboration with UNICEF and under the patronage of PM Siniora,
launched the 2008 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS3) that
will gather statistics on children and mothers in Lebanon. CAS
Director General Dr. Maral Totalian indicated that the results of
the survey would provide the basis for sound economic, social, and
health policies. Collection of data on the ground is expected to
begin in October 2008.

EC: LEBANON HAS PROGRESSED
IN SIMPLIFYING TRADE
--------------------

5. (U) According to the European Commission (EC)'s latest progress
report on Lebanon's implementation of its Action Plan for the
European Neighborhood Policy, Lebanon has made progress in
simplifying trade. The report noted that dismantling of tariffs on
European industrial and certain agricultural products has already
taken place, while import procedures have been simplified, and

BEIRUT 00001281 002 OF 002


restrictions on import and export activities of foreigners were
removed. An upgraded consumer protection law was adopted, and draft
regulations dealing with liability for defective products and
general product safety comply with relevant EU legislation. The
report mentioned that the EC is assisting Lebanon in improving the
business climate with a new business code and bankruptcy law. The
report also cited, key obstacles remaining for foreign investment,
including difficulty in enforcing contracts, the absence of
commercial courts, and lack of an independent judiciary.

KUWAITI FUND LAUNCHES DEVELOPMENT
PROJECTS IN THE SOUTH
--------------------

6. (U) Daily An-Nahar newspaper reported on August 25 the launch of
the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development's projects in the
province of Nabatieh in the south, covering 25 villages. The
projects, valued at around $185 million, are part of the Fund's
grant for reconstruction in the aftermath of the 206 July War,
mostly focusing on water and waste ater, as well as roads.

EFG HERMES ESTIMATES 3.
PERCENT GROWTH IN 2008
--------------------

7. (U) In its most recent report on MENA economies, leading
investment bank EFG Hermes indicated that Lebanon seems to be
reaping short-term gains from the current political stability.
However, it kept its 2008 growth forecast at 3.5 percent, as
economic growth has displayed volatility in recent years, and 4.5
percent growth for 2009. In nominal terms, the report expected a
GDP of $27.6 billion in 2008 and $30.7 billion in 2009. While
inflation reached a historical high of 9.3 percent in 2007, it was
expected to decrease slightly to around eight percent in 2008. EFG
Hermes estimated the 2008 trade deficit at 39 percent of GDP in
2008, while it expected the balance of payments to reach around $2
billion by year-end.

LEBANON GETS LOW MARKS GLOBALLY IN
ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE INDEX
--------------------

8. (U) According to the Environmental Performance Index, Lebanon
ranked 90 out of 149 countries worldwide, and 9 out of 12 MENA
countries, in terms of environmental performance. The index --
issued by Columbia and Yale Universities, in collaboration with the
Joint Research Center of the European Commission, and the World
Economic Forum -- ranks countries on 25 indicators grouped into six
categories: environmental health, air pollution, water resources,
biodiversity and habitat, productive natural resources, and climate
change.

NUMBER OF TOURISTS TO REACH
TWO MILLION A YEAR BY 2020
--------------------

9. (U) The World Tourism Organization (WTO) noted in its latest
report "Tourism 2020 Vision" that incoming tourists to Lebanon
averaged around one million visitors each year the past four years,
a shaky period for Lebanon's tourism sector. The WTO expects the
number of tourists to reach almost two million a year by 2020. The
report noted rising tourist spending, with the average outlay for a
tourist traveling in Lebanon reaching $4,300.

SISON

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