Financing provided by the Program has robustly increased over the years. From $44.6 million in 2008, USAID’s total funding allocated to development across various regions steeply increased to “$67.5 million in 2009,” said Ryan Gliha who is the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Officer and Spokesperson.
In 2010, more funding would be injected for development. Although the USAID’s- 2010 annual budget for Lebanon- has not been yet finalized, but Gilha expects funding “to increase robustly this year.”
In the past month, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Michele J. Sison restated the U.S. desire to assist the Lebanese government in tackling its priorities after her visits to ministers of Telecommunications, Energy, and Finance who have recently taken charge.
Sison said: “The United States looks forward to working with the ministers to establish a foundation for strong economic growth, economic reform, and job creation that will benefit all Lebanese.”
With unemployment being one of the many critical problems challenging economic development in Lebanon, the government is seeking ways to create new jobs for its citizens.
To solve the unemployment crisis, as much as “210,000 new jobs should be created in 2010," the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said in a recent report. This number rises to 440,000 new job vacancies in 2015 and 680,000 by 2020.
The United States is already providing assistance for the government in this regard through the various programs it sponsors through USAID, which aim at job creation in agribusiness, information, communications technology, and tourism sectors.
Assisting entrepreneurs is one way, the U.S. government pursues in its support for job creation. Each year, the USAID helps Lebanese business thinkers in establishing the businesses they always dreamt of through Microfinancing.
Interestingly, the United States government will be hosting an Entrepreneurship summit in April in Washington D.C. to promote business and job creation in line with U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy to support entrepreneurship in the region. The summit “will include many Lebanese participants,” said Gilha.
USAID supports privatization of the telecommunications sector in line with its belief that privatization is "a driving engine for economic prosperity.”
Gilha unveiled that the United States has offered “to help the Ministry of Telecommunications liaise with experts in the U.S. as the privatization process goes forward.” The matter was recently discussed between Sison and Charbel Nahas, Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications.
But this is not the first time the U.S. government offers help to Telecommunication Authorities. “The USAID has provided support to the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) for the purchase of equipment to enhance its expertise in line with capabilities of other international regulators,” said Gilha.
A large share of the annual aid is allocated to humanitarian support for undeveloped areas. Accordingly, the USAID launched in October 2009, the $20 million, Lebanon Water and Wastewater Sector Support (LWWSS) program in coordination with the Ministry of Energy and Water (MOEW).
The program, which is expected to be fully implemented at the end of September 2013, aims at assisting the four Water Establishments (WEs) in attaining financial and operational sustainability.
As part of the LWWSS, the USAID launched the Litani River Basin Management Support (LRBMS) program that will provide technical support to the Litani River Authority (LRA).
The USAID also financed restructuring of the Mudeirej Bridge, a vital link for transport between Beirut and the Bekaa Valley. The works are expected to be finalized this month.