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BEIRUT PORT EXPLOSION

Nearly a year after its creation, port blast reconstruction fund launches first project

Nearly a year after its creation, port blast reconstruction fund launches first project

A injured man sits outside a damaged restaurant in Mar Mikhael in the aftermath of the 2020 Beirut port explosion. (Credit: Patrick Baz/AFP)

BEIRUT — More than 15 months after the Beirut port explosion demolished large swathes of the city and nearly a year after a group of international organizations announced the creation of a new fund for reconstruction, officials launched, at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Najib Mikati and various business dignitaries, the first project to be paid for out of the fund.

Here’s what we know:

    • The program, which will be administered by Kafalat, a financial company that assists small- and medium-sized businesses in Lebanon, will provide grants of up to $25,000 to some 4,300 small businesses within a 5-km radius of the port and with 20 or fewer employees. Thirty percent of the grants are to go to women-owned or led businesses.

    • Last December, the World Bank, United Nations and European Union announced the Lebanon Reform, Recovery & Reconstruction Framework (3RF). The centerpiece of the program is a World Bank-managed financing facility intended to channel donor funds to initiatives that could include repairing damaged businesses, houses and infrastructure, providing assistance for households displaced by the blast and offering technical advice on government reforms.

    • The initiative aimed to raise some $2.58 billion for post-Beirut port explosion recovery and rebuilding costs over 18 months. But payment of some $2 billion of that amount was to be contingent on government reforms, which have largely stalled.

    • The funding has been slow to come in. A World Bank spokeswoman told L’Orient Today that currently about $65 million has been pledged or committed to the funding facility by donors. No money has yet been spent.

    • Along with funding being slow to arrive, progress has been delayed by bureaucratic bottlenecks. The small business assistance program launched Thursday, the Building Beirut Businesses Back and Better (B5) Fund, for instance, had been delayed due to hold-ups in getting a no-objection letter from the Finance Ministry, a condition required by the World Bank before it could implement the project.

    • “Though the project took some time to start, it started. Imagine the impact it will have, imagine the businesses it will salvage, not to forget the job opportunities,” Asmahan Zein, who represents civil society organizations as co-chair of the consultative group advising the 3RF project, said at the press conference at the Grand Serail government palace announcing the launch of the initiative.

    • Businesses interested in applying for the grants can find more information here.


BEIRUT — More than 15 months after the Beirut port explosion demolished large swathes of the city and nearly a year after a group of international organizations announced the creation of a new fund for reconstruction, officials launched, at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Najib Mikati and various business dignitaries, the first project to be paid for out of the fund.Here’s what we...