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Cablegate: Lebanon Progressing On Un Millenium Development Goals

VZCZCXRO0212
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #1175/01 2991532
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261532Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5952
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 001175

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN EINV PGOV SOCI LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON PROGRESSING ON UN MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
(ECONOMIC WEEK IN REVIEW, OCTOBER 19-25, 2009)

CONTENTS
--------

-- PROGRESS ON UN MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
-- RESILIENCE OF ECONOMY IS EXAGGERATED, SAYS PROMINENT ECONOMIST
-- CISCO TO ESTABLISH ENTREPRENEUR INSTITUTE IN BEIRUT
-- MICROFINANCE ENVIRONMENT WEAK
-- BEIRUT RETAIL RENTALS ON THE RISE


PROGRESS ON UN MILLENIUM
DEVELOPMENT GOALS
------------------------

1. (U) Lebanon has made substantial progress towards achieving the
UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to a recent report
by the UN Development Program (UNDP). The report highlighted
improvements in the areas of education, reduction of child and
mother mortality rates, gender equality, empowerment of women,
sustainable environment, and eradication of poverty and hunger. The
number of those living in "low conditions" dropped from 34% in 1995
to 25.5% in 2004. Lebanon has worked to implement MDGs as outlined
during the 2007 Paris III donor conference and has sought to reduce
debt and establish fair trade regulations before 2015, the report
said.

ECONOMIC RESILIENCE EXAGGERATED?
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) Local estimates of 7% economic growth in 2009 are
exaggerated, Byblos Bank Director of Research Nassib Ghobril
assessed to us on October 20, adding that he believes that a 4-5%
growth in 2009 is more realistic. Calling the perception of
resilience of Lebanon's economy inflated, Ghobril based his
projection on the Byblos Bank's Consumer Confidence Index that has
regressed monthly from June to September due to domestic political
uncertainties; the decline in August in the Central Bank of
Lebanon's Coincident Indicator (a weighted index of selected
economic activities); and a deterioration in the economic,
financial, and political risk rating by New-York based PRS Group.
Ghobril indirectly criticized the IMF for endorsing local estimates
and said that he always challenged visiting IMF delegations to
conduct their own forecasts in the absence of credible statistics in
Lebanon.

3. (SBU) Ghobril stressed that Lebanon's political class should
consider economic and financial issues as their top priority and
take decisions accordingly. This week, Ghobril received an award
for Best Economist in Lebanon and the Diaspora for 2009.

NEW CISCO ENTREPRENEUR INSTITUTE
--------------------------------

4. (U) The America-Mideast Educational and Training Services
(AMIDEAST) and Cisco Entrepreneur Institute (CEI) plan to establish
a training center in Lebanon later this month, followed by others in
Morocco and Oman. Courses will focus on requisite skills to start a
business and general entrepreneurship skills, with content and
learning resources provided by Stanford and Cornell Universities.
Cisco noted that it hopes these courses will help translate
Lebanon's entrepreneurial potential into new jobs and economic
growth.

WEAK ENVIRONMENT FOR MICROFINANCE
---------------------------------

5. (SBU) Lebanon ranked 48 out of 55 countries worldwide and last
among 15 Middle Eastern and African countries in the Economist
Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Global Microfinance Index. The index
evaluates microfinance as a commercially viable and sustainable
activity and compares countries -- based on regulatory framework,
investment climate, and institutional development -- for
microfinance activity. Lebanon does not have a law on microfinance,
and an advisor to the Minister of Economy and Trade recently told us
the ministry would need technical assistance to draft a microfinance
law.

BEIRUT RETAIL RENTAL COSTS RISING
---------------------------------

6. (U) Beirut ranked 33 out of 60 cities worldwide and second out of
12 MENA cities in terms of most expensive retail rental locations,
according to a survey by property consultants Cushman and Wakefield.
Beirut ranked 43 worldwide and third within the MENA region in the
previous survey. The most expensive location in Beirut was the
Beirut Central District, where rental costs are expected to rise
even further, followed by ABC Shopping Center and Verdun Street.

BEIRUT 00001175 002 OF 002


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