Lebanon Business Profile
Statistics• GDP: US$21.5 billion (2006).
• Main exports: Authentic jewellery, inorganic chemicals, consumer goods, fruit, tobacco, construction materials, electric power, machinery and switchgear, textile fibres and paper.
• Main imports: Petroleum products, cars, medicinal products, clothing, meat and live animals, consumer goods, paper, textile fabrics and tobacco.
• Main trade partners: Syria, Italy, France, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Turkey, Switzerland, China, USA, Saudi Arabia and UK.
EconomyThe 15-year civil war from 1976 to 1991 all but completely destroyed the economy; Beirut’s position as a major financial and commercial centre for the Middle East was lost. Since then, both Lebanon and its capital have gone a long way to re-establishing themselves.
Agriculture now accounts for about 10% of GDP, with citrus fruit, olives and cereals as the main products. Light industries include textiles, processed foods and industrial machinery. There are no significant mineral resources, but the manufacturing industry is growing rapidly. In the all-important service sector, the two main components, banking and transit trade (both of which were almost wiped out during the civil war) have recovered reasonably well. Essential reconstruction, financed by expatriate capital, international aid and foreign investment, began with infrastructural projects.
However, by the late 1990s, the government’s failure to control the budget deficit and external debt was causing serious difficulties. Annual growth had fallen from an average 4% during most of the 1990s to just over 1% by 2000. At the end of 2000, the government introduced a major reform programme based on privatisation and promotion of foreign investment. However, it was at pains to do so outside the normal channels of the IMF and World Bank which, the government felt, imposed unacceptable constraints on its freedom of manoeuvre on economic policy-making.
To that end, in November 2002, Lebanon successfully raised a US$4 billion loan package from a consortium including a dozen governments (notably excluding the USA) and a number of investment banks and multinational funds. However, the debt burden has continued to climb. Lack of confidence and speculation about the risk of devaluation placed the currency under considerable pressure as local investors switched to the US Dollar.
The 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel led to a collapse in the tourist industry and severely affected Lebanon’s economy. In 2006, the economy contracted by 5% and the national debt reached a record level of US$40.4 billion. Grants and loans of nearly US$8 billion pledged at the Paris
Business EtiquetteBusinesspeople usually wear a jacket and tie. English is spoken by many local businesspeople and normal courtesies are observed. Appointments and business cards are used.
Office hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1330 and 1500-1800.
Government office hours: Mon-Thurs 0800-1400, Fri 0800-1100, Sat 0800-1300.
Commercial InformationChamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon
PO Box 11-1801, Rue Sanayeh, Sanayeh, Beirut, Lebanon
Tel: (1) 353 390 or 744 160.
Ministry of Economy and Trade
Euro Info Correspondence Centre (EICC)
Conferences & ConventionsBeirut is an increasingly popular business destination and a number of companies offer extensive conference and exhibition facilities.
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