Good morning and thank you really everyone for being with us today.
Mr. Mayor, Members of the Arsal Municipal council, Representatives of Electricite du Liban, and especially our partners at the Rene Moawad Foundation — [MP] Michel [Moawad] it is great to be with you — and our other distinguished guests.
I am very pleased to be with you today to celebrate the delivery to Arsal of five new electrical transmission stations. I am very confident we are marking a new phase for the people of Arsal. For some time, the people of Arsal have confronted many challenges – a large influx of refugees, the invasion of terrorists from Syria, and difficult economic conditions. But, despite everything, you have persevered. Arsal is a different place today than it was only a year ago. Your Army has expelled the terrorists from your lands. And you are starting to reclaim those lands. We are helping you there too. I’d like to point out something we have not talked much about, but I want you to know that the United States has just provided one million dollars to a demining effort that will survey and map the areas around Arsal where mines and other explosives are laid, so the explosives can be removed and you can go back to your lands. This will help restore an Arsal where families can tend, irrigate, and harvest their orchards, herd their cattle, produce beautiful hand-made carpets, and eagerly anticipate the beginning of every school year.
I am very confident that all of you – the people here – working hand in hand with your friends from around the rest of the country and with your friends in the international community, are now on the path to success. We are very happy to be here to assist, including with improving the quality of the key local services, including electricity, health services, and education.
The U.S. Government’s work to increase the quality and delivery of utility services is a very important part of our support to Lebanon. And I think it complements what we’re doing in other areas, including in education, in economic growth, and in national security. We have a longstanding commitment here to work with local communities, which is where economic prosperity starts.
Earlier this summer, through USAID’s Value Chain Development Project, the American people provided fruit harvesting equipment and tools to 250 cherry and apple farmers in Arsal.
Today, under the BALADI project we are celebrating, we are seeing the successful completion of a vital electricity supply project and the inauguration of these five transmission stations that are going to serve 26,000 people. This important electricity infrastructure rehabilitation project, which is implemented by the Rene Moawad Foundation, with close cooperation with the Arsal municipality and Electricite du Liban, is a testament to what we can do together at the local level – with lots of collaboration among the municipalities, committed Lebanese officials and NGOs and Lebanon’s many friends, we can get these things done.
I also today have the pleasure of announcing that the U.S. government is planning further assistance to the people of Arsal through our BALADI project. We are going to be providing new funding for up to seven new development projects in and around Arsal. We have already started working with the Arsal municipality and with community representatives so that you can identify your top priorities.
These new projects could include additional transformers to stabilize and better distribute the electricity; it could include improving the agricultural value chain to benefit local cherry farmers; or improving health care services in Arsal among other things.
I want to conclude really by recognizing all of you, the municipality leaders and the people of Arsal for your resolve and your determination to improve your community. I also want to thank the Rene Moawad Foundation for the work it is doing under the USAID Baladi project. We are working together not only here, but in nearly 140 other municipalities across the country, improving the lives of more than 300,000 people.
I know there is a lot more to do. But you have newly-elected Members of Parliament. You have NGOs with lots of experience. You have support from the United States and other friendly countries. But most of all you have the will to preserve and improve your city. That is the true key to success.
So I am very happy to be with you today to inaugurate this project, to meet you in person, and to appreciate all the work you have done to bring the city back from the brink of war and disasters, to really a much more productive future. Thank You.