Austrian President Heinz Fischer Beirut - Arabstoday Austrian President Heinz Fischer said Friday that his government was keen on encouraging mutual investments and projects between his country and Lebanon. Speaking at the Arab-Austrian economic forum, he added that the investment and sustainable development climate paves way for further cooperation between Lebanon and Austria. Fischer said Austrian firms could help Lebanon in the energy and electricity sector, stressing that these companies could supply the country with modern equipment. Fischer added that Austria could also help Lebanon handle solid waste and assist in infrastructure projects. The president saw lot of resemblance between Lebanon and Austria. “Austria and Lebanon are identical in many aspects, especially in tourism, which represents 25 percent of the Lebanon’s GDP and 10 percent of Austria’s GDP,” Fischer said. He also expressed his admiration of Lebanese industry for the production of high quality products. Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi emphasized that Lebanon had managed despite the international financial crisis to pursue a successful economic policy and to manage its economy under difficult circumstances. “Lebanon’s public debt currently stands at 137 percent of the country’s GDP. But this ratio has been falling gradually since 2006 when it stood at 182 percent,” the minister said. He added that the government was determined to pursue financial reforms in the fields of taxes, public expenditures and energy. “We have faith in the future of the region despite the current difficult conditions. We believe this region is heading toward a more democratic environment,” Safadi said. Adnan Kassar, head of the Arab Chambers of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the visiting Austrian president, highlighting the economic relations between Lebanon and Austria. Kassar added that the Arab League had ambitions to unify the markets in the Middle East to capitalize on a population of 365 million and total GDP of $2.5 trillion. “This will create an incredible market, enormous consumption and great potential for investments,” he said. Kassar saw great prospects for boosting trade and investments between Austria and the Arab countries. “The value of trade between Austria and Arab countries is close to 5 billion euros annually with great prospects to enhance trade between the two sides,” Kassar said. He noted that the fast developments in a number of Arab countries were unprecedented and would help improve the style of rule which in turn would improve citizens’ social and living conditions. At the end of the conference, the Council for Reconstruction and Development signed an agreement with an Austrian company to rehabilitate turbine units that generate electricity for the Abdul-Aal factory. The cost of the rehabilitation project is 5 million euros, which will be funded by the Kuwait National Fund.