Lebanon Business Profile
Economy: The 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 per cent 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 per cent during most of the 1990s to just
over 1 per cent 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 $4 billion loan
package from a consortium including a dozen governments (notably excluding
the US) and a number of investment banks and multinational funds. Earlier
in the year, Lebanon concluded a major bilateral trade deal with the EU.
Besides the EU, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the United Arab
Emirates and Kuwait are Lebanon’s principal trading partners.
Business: Businesspeople 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.
Conferences/Conventions: Beirut is an increasingly popular
business destination and a number of companies offer extensive conference
and exhibition facilities. For further details, contact the Ministry of
Tourism (see Contact Addresses section).
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