Commercial activity across Lebanon  has declined by between 15 and 70 percent, parliamentarians said Wednesday, warning that the decrease in trade was forcing many businesses to close.
“The Parliament’s Economy and Trade Committee was not expecting to hear such disastrous figures and in reality, the commercial sector is witnessing a bizarre recession,” MP Nabil De Freij said following the committee’s meeting with traders associations from several Lebanese areas.
In Beirut and Mount Lebanon, trade has declined by 15 percent in 2012, following a 30 percent decrease in 2011, De Freij said. “Thirty percent is no small [decline] and there is no doubt that many businesses have closed down.”
In the city of Baalbek, decline in trade stands at 70 percent over the past three years, De Freij added.
Sidon, which was the scene of bloody clashes between the Lebanese Army and supporters of Sheikh Ahmad Assir, saw trade decline between 25 and 30 percent, he said.
“There is a big mall that closed recently [along with] 17 shops that no one asks about,” De Freij added.
In Nabatieh and its suburbs, trade declined between 5 and 7 percent, he said. “The situation is not like other cities because a lot of expats send remittances to their families,” he added.
Tripoli, meanwhile, saw the volume of business activity fall between 70 to 90 percent, De Freij said.
The city has not only seen bloody clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen but recently was also the scene of twin blasts that killed 47 people and caused extensive property damage.
“A study by UNDP  [in Tripoli] has shown that 60 percent of families are living below the poverty line and 35 percent of shops are closed. About 7 to 10 percent of shops closed [recently].”
De Freij said that while the financial sector remained in good shape, it only employed 20,000 individuals, a small number when compared to the 343,000 who work in the commercial sector, 100,000 of whom have jobs in the tourism field.
“The financial sector is now in a sound position, but the rest of the sectors are constantly declining and this can affect the financial sector,” he said.
He added that the commercial sector owes $10 billion in loans to banks.