The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development signed a $15 million loan agreement with the Republic of Lebanon to co-finance an extensive scheme to rehabilitate and construct new sections of a major artery linking the capital city Beirut to the Syrian border.
Once completed in 5.5 years time, the $246.3 million project, part of the Pan Arab Highway, will facilitate the transport of goods for export, improve economic activity and encourage trade opportunities between the two countries. Lebanon’s roads play an almost exclusive role in the transportation of goods and people, and provide important linkages between urban and rural areas.
Although the majority of them are paved, many sections are over 60 years old and, after years of neglect, now require extensive rehabilitation. Drainage systems are defective, and road markings and signs virtually non-existent.
The 62-kilometer stretch joining Beirut to Masnaa, which lies directly on the Syrian border, passes through key agricultural territory as well as popular tourist areas. The road can no longer safely accommodate increased traffic loads, compromising the movement of goods and people.
Under the project, a 26 kilometer-long section of the existing Beirut-Damascus Road connecting Beirut suburb Hazmieh to the town of Saoufar will be widened and upgraded to a divided, six-lane dual carriageway, including lighting and traffic signs.
Three new sections, totaling 36.5 kilometers linking Saoufar to Masnaa, will be constructed and paved with a bitumen surface. Other related works will entail the construction of overpasses, viaducts, drainage structures, interchanges and concrete barriers. The highway sections will be designed with a 20-year life span, with the built-in potential to extend the useful life by another 20-25 years.
Lebanon has previously benefited from six OPEC Fund loans for public sector projects in the agriculture, health, education, transportation and water supply and sewerage sectors. One loan has also been approved for the private sector to support the development of Lebanon’s small and medium-sized enterprises. Technical assistance grants have also been extended for the rehabilitation of the country’s health sector and to support an agricultural research program.
Lending terms include an interest rate of four percent per annum, with an annual service charge of one percent on amounts withdrawn and outstanding; maturity of 20 years, including a grace period of five years. Co-financiers are the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Kuwait Fund, Saudi Fund for Development and the Government of Lebanon. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )