Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati prepares for May elections, central bank issues CDs Locals cheered as the last Syrian soldiers rolled out of Lebanon after 29 years of occupation four days early on April 26. However, local business leaders still reeled from the events of the past three months, which drained employers of cheap Syrian labor, as expats returned with the military and tourism revenues plunged. The Lebanese Parliament made a strong effort towards building up legitimacy as quickly as Syria tore down its last outposts and burned its paperwork. President Emile Lahoud appointed business tycoon Najib Mikati prime minister-designate with the mandate of quickly organizing parliamentary elections. The interim government also raised $1.64 billion through ten-year Central Bank dollar certificates of deposits, while increasing rates on deposits on Lebanese pounds to discourage dollarization.

While these moves have bolstered the economy in the short term, stemming change of the exchange rate and even boosting the local stock market, by all indications, 2005 will be a year of recovery for Lebanon because of the instability caused by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 15.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reduced its real GDP growth prognosis from 4.5% to 2%; 18.5% fewer tourists visited the country in Feb. 2005 compared to Feb. 2004, and the discrepancy for March is expected to be much greater.

According to the Oxford Business Report, however, Khalaf Al Habtoor, a construction magnate from the UAE, is continuing full steam ahead on a $250 million mall project. US President Bush also pledged financial support after Syria pulled out, but he hasn’t supplied details yet.