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Wed 19 Feb 2020 07:54 AM

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Lebanon PM meets delegation from the World Bank's private lending arm

IMF will send a mission to Beirut this week to provide advice on the nation's economic policies

Lebanon PM meets delegation from the World Bank's private lending arm

Prime Minister Hassan Diab. Image: AFP/Getty Images

A delegation from the World Bank's private lending arm met Lebanon's prime minister Tuesday, as the debt-ridden country seeks assistance to rescue its moribund economy.

Lebanon has the world's third-highest debt-to-GDP ratio and has been sliding towards default in recent months, with tight capital controls and a currency devaluation already hitting purchasing power.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab met a delegation from the International Finance Corporation, the NNA news agency reported.

The state agency had initially said that Diab was meeting a delegation of the International Monetary Fund, instead of members of the IFC.

But the IMF confirmed Tuesday it will send a mission to Beirut this week to provide advice on the nation's economic policies.

Diab's government won parliament's confidence only last week, and the state immediately requested the IMF's advice on tackling the economic crisis.

Lebanon is expected to decide whether to pay $1.2 billion in Eurobonds that reach maturity on March 9 or to default on its debt.

Lebanon has requested help from the IMF to assess the measures needed to rebuild the economy but has not yet asked for financial assistance.

A "small IMF staff team" will visit the country from Thursday through the weekend, fund spokesman Gerry Rice said in a statement.

The aim is "to listen to the authorities' views on how they plan to face Lebanon’s economic difficulties... and provide broad technical advice on policies to deal with the macroeconomic challenges facing the economy," he said.

However, "Lebanon has not requested financial assistance from the IMF."

Several ministers attended Tuesday's meeting with the IFC, according to a statement issued by Diab's office.

Items discussed included "setting up public-private cooperation projects and developing the transport sector and the airport," it said.

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