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Sat 2 Sep 2006 04:00 AM

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The rebuild needs momentum

As the dust finally begins to settle in Lebanon, the government has released the grim tally of destruction arising from 34 days of bombardment. When the reconstruction ‘embargo’ is lifted in the country, repairs will have to be made to some 15,000 homes, 78 bridges and 630 roads.

|~||~||~|As the dust finally begins to settle in Lebanon, the government has released the grim tally of destruction arising from 34 days of bombardment.

When the reconstruction ‘embargo’ is lifted in the country, repairs will have to be made to some 15,000 homes, 78 bridges and 630 roads.

The cost of completing this and other reconstruction work is now estimated to be US $10 billion (LBP15 trillion), according to the Beirut Chamber of Commerce.

The reluctance of the government to start the reconstruction process immediately is understandable, while the prospect of an outbreak of fresh hostilities remains a possibility.

It also seems wise to ensure that the most is made from any new buildings and infrastructure likely to rise from the rubble.

Solidere, the developer created by assassinated former prime minister Rafik Hariri, was able to effect an inspired transformation of central Beirut following the end of the civil war.

There is no reason why the same sort of transformation cannot take place in areas of the country destroyed by the recent bombing campaign.

Or perhaps there is one. With the country already indebted from the cost of rebuilding vast tracts of land that suffered damage during the 1975-1990 civil war, attracting fresh funds
will be difficult.

So the fears raised by the Lebanese Economic Organisation, that precious time is now being wasted, should also be taken seriously.

While potential donors meet in Sweden, the business community of the Gulf is already putting its hand in its pocket to offer immediate assistance and it is vital that the momentum of this goodwill is maintained.

The legacy of the conflict cannot be allowed to threaten the solvency of the very contractors and suppliers needed to carry out the reconstruction of Lebanon.

Construction is a famously cash flow-intensive industry and the bombing carnage of the last month will have put many firms in a precarious financial position.

The sooner they are put to productive work again, the better for them and for the reconstruction effort.||**||

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