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Cablegate: H1n1 in Lebanon Declared an Epidemic (Economic Week In

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RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #1260 3350719
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010719Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6118
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS BEIRUT 001260

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN PHUM SOCI PGOV LE
SUBJECT: H1N1 IN LEBANON DECLARED AN EPIDEMIC (ECONOMIC WEEK IN
REVIEW, NOVEMBER 23 - 25, 2009)

CONTENTS
--------

-- H1N1: LEBANON HAS MOVED TO THE STAGE OF EPIDEMIC
-- JUSTICE MINISTER STRESSES NEED TO MODERNIZE COMMERCIAL LAWS
-- HIGHER COUNCIL FOR CHILDHOOD LAUNCHES WEBSITE
-- LEBANON IS SECOND MOST ECONOMICALLY FREE COUNTRY IN THE REGION


H1N1 DECLARED EPIDEMIC
----------------------

1. (U) Minister of Public Health Mohammad Khalifeh announced
November 25 that Lebanon had moved to the epidemic stage of H1N1, as
test results showed that 80% of people with the flu were carrying
the H1N1 strain. However, he reiterated that the virus was not
fatal, noting that most patients were being treated at home and that
only two deaths thus far had been attributed to the virus. The
ministry will provide the anti-viral drug Tamiflu to all government
hospitals to distribute to children for free, Khalifeh said.
Although the Ministry of Public Health, in collaboration with the
Ministry of Education, decided not to postpone the 2009-2010 school
year for private and public schools because of the virus, several
private schools have unilaterally closed for up to one week, given
cases of swine flu.

JUSTICE MINISTER BACKS
MODERNIZING COMMERCIAL LAWS
---------------------------

2. (U) Minister of Justice Ibrahim Najjar called for the need to
modernize commercial laws -- some of which date back to the 1920s --
and better implement legislation in general, during the opening of a
one-day conference organized by the Arab Center for the Development
of the Rule of Law and Integrity (ACRLI). Najjar said new business
laws needed to consider e-commerce and noted that the ministry
already had considered 75 laws for reform and improvement.

3. (SBU) Meanwhile, Minister of Economy and Trade Mohammad Safadi
stressed the importance of modernizing laws as a means of
encouraging investments and increasing productivity and exports,
thereby raising job opportunities and per capita income. Safadi
noted that many new commercial and economic laws were previously
drafted and are still pending parliamentary passage. (Note: New
draft laws and amendments directly related to Lebanon's accession to
the WTO are currently pending parliamentary ratification, some for
more than two years. End note.)

HIGHER COUNCIL FOR
CHILDHOOD LAUNCHES WEBSITE
--------------------------

4. (U) The Ministry of Social Affairs' Higher Council for Childhood
(HCC) launched its new website, coinciding with the 20th anniversary
of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The trilingual
website, Atfalouna ('our kids') (http://www.atfalouna.gov.lb)
features information for children, parents, and professionals, UN
documentation, HCC publications, an e-library, and a list of
child-related NGOs. A study on the situation of children and women
by the HCC in collaboration with UNICEF is expected to be placed on
the site in early 2010. Some of the most important issues facing
children in Lebanon include poverty, school dropouts, physical
punishment and child labor, but detailed documentation and accurate
statistics are not readily available.

SECOND MOST ECONOMICALLY
FREE COUNTRY IN REGION
------------------------

5. (U) Lebanon ranked 2nd out of 15 countries in the Fraser
Institute's annual 2009 Index of Economic Freedom in the Arab World,
up from 5th in 2008. Lebanon ranked first regionally in terms of
government size (small relative to its economy) and access to
available liquidity and stable currency, and second in terms of
regulation of credit, labor, and business. Lebanon lagged in the
categories of freedom to trade internationally, legal structure, and
security of property rights.

DAUGHTON

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