16 April 2023

New investment initiatives are needed and welcome.

What is your outlook on the industry`s evolution in 2020 and your perspective for 2021?

 

Lebanon has faced compounded challenges in 2020: Largest peace-time economic and financial crisis, in addition to the corona epidemic outbreak. The Lebanese pound has lost around 90 percent of its value since late 2019, and the central bank's foreign reserves, which have been used to subsidize basic goods such as fuel, medicine, and wheat, have dropped. This created major obstacles in the vital economic aspects, especially the industrial sector, and this was eventually expected. 

However, I believe that the industry sector has survived and has risen up to the challenges, and it was able to achieve a little progress compared to any other sector.

Regarding 2021, the country still suffers from a constitutional void, where a caretaker government is ruling, while political talks are in the process to reform a new one.

The caretaker government cannot make major decisions, and this might expose Lebanon to further financial problems.

In the middle of this, and while we are struggling to fight covid_19, I expect that we will keep on confronting the crisis for some time.

Nevertheless, Lebanon needs some new investments, since the cost of the industry in the country has accelerated big time, though we assure providing good quality, and we believe that our industry has become extremely competitive compared to the rest of the world, especially the Mena region.

Hence, we expect many of our industry sectors to be able to compete all over the area. We do expect our exports to rise to 7-8% and our industrial sector to grow by about 45%.

 

What are the main challenges that you faced as a minister and, what lessons have you learned from the crisis?

 

Apparently, the crisis and the pandemic have affected all sectors in Lebanon, financially and socially, which in return has left an impact on funds and investments. But the biggest problem lies in our economic plans and strategies that don’t take the industry or even agriculture into account.

The main issue about Lebanon is its rentier economy, and the biggest struggle ever has been to change it to a productive one.

We have learned many lessons from the crisis. Maybe one of the major lessons should have been directing the efforts toward industry and production, otherwise, Lebanon will never overcome the current situation.

In addition to the above, I address Lebanese people to buy Local products. The government alone can do nothing. We need some collaboration with the private sector to be able to rescue the country as soon as possible.

 

Which trends will influence the development and success of new investments/projects in Lebanon?

 

It is well observed that Lebanon lacks profitable investments. Nevertheless, we have initiated major activities to attract as such, mainly by referring to the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL), for the facilities offered in terms of taxes tariff especially. On the other hand, we at the ministry of industry are working to facilitate investments in industrial zones that will help investment grow.

Lebanon needs new investments. With the help of reorganizing the banking sector, I believe those new investments will be able to flourish in Lebanon, and people will be able to benefit from them.

On the other side, Lebanon is rich with expert, educated, and professional citizens.

Hence, we need to invest more in those and support them worldwide. If we build good relations outside the country and prepare strategic plans for investments in the fields of technology and industry as example, we will be able to nourish Information Communication Technology (ICT). This is possible remotely too.

Therefore, we expect those trends to improve the industrial sector in Lebanon, mainly in technology and telecommunication.

 

What measures would you like to see implemented by the government, to ensure that Lebanon can survive facing international competition and increase interest for more investments?

 

As far as the government is concerned, we are already moving forward, but I recommend the new government immediately work on making our economy productive. This requires great efforts in different major aspects, like investing in new factories, focusing on training people, and securing new and existing investments, otherwise, we will be losing the sources we already have.

In addition to that, we need to extend payback for taxes, facilitate exemptions or tax relief, and eliminate taxes related to customs specifically in raw materials.

Lebanon also needs to empower its export, by referring to specialized economic advisors or economic experts, within the ministries to help. Corrective actions should be taken, like preparing well-oriented external agreements to support the country and its industry.

On the other hand, it is very important to reduce the cost of imported raw materials while securing our products.

Eliminating all tariffs on imported raw materials and primary materials would be the key.

 

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