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Cablegate: Lebanon: Swine Flu Will Not Disrupt the Beginning of The

VZCZCXRO7543
RR RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHDH RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHLB #0986/01 2460537
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030537Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5653
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 000986

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR NEA/ELA AND EEB/IFD/ODF
STATE PASS USTR FRANCESCKI
STATE PASS USAID LAUDATO/NANDY/SCOTT
TREASURY FOR PARODI/BLEIWEISS/AHERN
USDOC FOR 4520/ITA/MAC/ONE
NSC FOR SHAPIRO/MCDERMOTT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN EINT ETRD KFLU PGOV SCUL LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: SWINE FLU WILL NOT DISRUPT THE BEGINNING OF THE
SCHOOL YEAR (ECONOMIC WEEK IN REVIEW, AUGUST 24 - 30, 2009)

CONTENTS
--------

-- SWINE FLU CASES REACH 600, SCHOOL YEAR TO PROCEED AS USUAL
-- ECONOMY MINISTRY HOLDS WORKSHOP ON TECHNICAL BARRIERS TO TRADE
-- USAID-FUNDED PROJECT FOCUSES ON STRENGTHENING JUDICIARY
-- LEBANON'S CONNECTIVITY RANKING FALLS REGIONALLY, MOBILE
PENETRATION TO INCREASE WITH PRIVATIZATION


SWINE FLU CASES REACH 600,
SCHOOL YEAR TO PROCEED AS USUAL
-------------------------------

1. (U) Following a meeting with Minister of Education Bahia Hariri
on August 26, Minister of Public Health Mohammad Khalifeh announced
that the number of swine flu cases had reached approximately 600, up
from 500 last week. Hariri and Khalifeh insisted the GOL would not
delay the upcoming school year because of the flu, but they
maintained they would take necessary precautions, placing doctors in
schools and initiating awareness campaigns to prevent children who
may be infected from going to school.

2. (SBU) An advisor to Khalifeh, Rasha Hamra, told us on August 24
that the ministry has medication on hand to treat the flu and is
sending it to hospitals with confirmed flu cases. She said the GOL
would soon submit a purchase order through the World Health
Organization for the swine flu vaccine, but does not expect to
receive the order before the beginning of 2010.

ECONOMY MINISTRY HOLDS WORKSHOP
ON TECHNICAL BARRIERS TO TRADE
-------------------------------

3. (U) On August 25, the Ministry of Economy and Trade (MOET), in
collaboration with the MEPI-funded WTO Accession project at the
MOET, held a workshop on the WTO's Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)
Agreement. After a presentation by Booz Allen Hamilton senior
technical advisor Ed Nemeroff, MOET's legal consultants presented
the draft law on technical regulations, which is still being revised
by the GOL stakeholders, before being sent for cabinet and
parliament approval.

4. (SBU) In a separate meeting on August 24, MP and former head of
the parliamentary economic committee Nabil de Freij told us that
more media campaigns are needed to raise awareness on the importance
of WTO accession among the general public. De Freij, a staunch ally
of PM-designate Saad Hariri and member of March 14, said that Hariri
has the political will to move forward on WTO accession, and placed
all blame for the lack of progress on passage of WTO legislation on
the opposition. Econoff pointed out that March 14 had prevented a
quorum in almost all parliamentary sessions in the first half of
2009, preventing passage of legislation, while Lama Oueijan, a WTO
expert and advisor to the Minister of Economy and Trade, noted that
Hizballah had been helpful to the MOET in its preparation of
legislation. (Note: Although invited, no MPs, including De Freij,
attended the TBT workshop. End note.)

USAID-FUNDED PROJECT FOCUSES
ON STRENGTHENING JUDICIARY
--------------------------

5. (SBU) Econoff and econstaff met with National Center for State
Courts' (NCSC) USAID-funded Lebanon Judicial Strengthening Project
head Philippe Lamarche and deputy head Gary Collins. Given that one
of the most important obstacles to improving the intellectual
property (IP) environment in Lebanon remains at the level of the
judiciary, econoff inquired about the possibility of increased IP
content in the NCSC program, especially at the Judicial Training
Institute (JTI), at which all local judges are trained. The
project, running since December 2007, focuses on strengthening the
judicial sector in Lebanon, including an overhaul of the JTI and its
curriculum and providing assistance to the Higher Judicial Council
in developing a strategic plan for the judicial sector. Lamarche
said the primary focus of the program is strengthening the
independence of the judiciary and improving access to justice.

LEBANON'S CONNECTIVITY RANKING FALLS,
MOBILE PENETRATION TO INCREASE WITH PRIVATIZATION

BEIRUT 00000986 002 OF 002


--------------------------------------------- ----

6. (U) The Arab Advisors Group 2009 Total Country Connectivity
Measure (TCCM) ranked Lebanon 14th out of 19 MENA countries, down
from 10th in the previous survey. The survey uses penetration of
fixed lines, mobile lines, and internet to measure information and
communication technology (ICT) services in each country. An earlier
report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) stated
that Lebanon's internet penetration was at 37.7% in 2008, up by
10.9% from 2007, with the aggregate number of internet users up by
65.3% to over 1.5 million in 2008, and a 16% surge in mobile phone
penetration, which came at the expense of fixed lines.

7. (U) Meanwhile, the Lebanese Telecommunications Regulatory
Authority's annual report reported that mobile penetration reached
35.7% in 2008. It forecast the rate to reach 60% in 2014, if the
privatization of the two current mobile operators takes place by
2010 and the GOL issues a third mobile license in 2011.

SISON

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