Experts have claimed that Saudi Arabia’s bid to provide its own aid to Lebanon may be seen as an effort to push back on Qatar in the country.
In what has been viewed as further evidence of regional competition and a move set to exacerbate the GCC diplomatic dispute, Saudi Arabia has followed Qatar’s lead and offered support to Lebanon.
The kingdom’s finance minister told CNBC that Saudi Arabia is prepared to do all it can to prop up Lebanon’s ailing economy, but stopped short of providing any specific details.
The Saudi finance minister’s comments come less than 24 hours after Qatar announced it would buy US$500 million worth of sovereign bonds to save Lebanon’s struggling economy.
“We are interested to see stability in Lebanon and we will support Lebanon all the way,” Mohammed Al-Jadaan said at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday.
“We are also determined to making sure that we play our role as a catalyst of stability in the region,” he added.
Experts have claimed that Saudi Arabia’s bid to provide its own aid to Lebanon may be seen as an effort to push back on Qatar in the country, as it has attempted to do vis-a-vis Iranian-linked influence in the past, though with mixed results.
However, the lack of detail in al-Jadaan’s offer throws up questions over what strings are attached to the support.
Lebanon is in the midst of an economic crisis. The country is struggling under the weight of a looming banking crash, buckling under the Syrian civil war next door, lower investment and tourism from traditionally supportive Gulf countries and crushing public debt.
At more than 150 percent, Lebanon’s nominal debt to gross domestic product (GDP) is currently the third-highest in the world. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that Lebanon needs “an immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment” to make its public debt sustainable.