Lebanese Economy and Trade Minister Bassel Fuleihan officially launched the Tourism and Shopping Festival 2001. Rates on airline tickets, hotel accommodations and shopping will be reduced by 50 percent, while the 16 percent service charge and 5 percent tax on restaurants will be lifted throughout the six-week festival.
The festival is part of the government’s policy of improving Lebanon’s image abroad and falls within the process of reducing the cost of visiting and doing business in Lebanon. The government has already implemented several relevant measures such as reducing customs tariffs, implementing the open-skies policy and easing visa procedures at the airport.
The measures are expected to increase the number of visitors to the country for this year’s festival, particularly visitors from the Gulf and other Arab countries.
The government announced the formation of a five-member National Integrity Steering Committee (NISC) to assess the level of corruption in Lebanon and outline an anti-graft strategy.
The project is a joint initiative between the government and the United Nations Center for International Crime Prevention. The committee includes legislative, economic, financial and administration experts as well as a UN representative, and all committee members have previously worked with the UN on an anti-corruption campaign.
The NISC will propose a strategy in collaboration with the executive and legislative branches rather than replacing the role of public institutions on the issue. It expects to put its master plan in place within two years, while the UN has commissioned a local consulting firm to examine corruption in the country, estimate its burden on the budget and assess local perceptions on the issue.
The committee also plans to hold at a later stage a donor meeting to attract foreign funding for an anti-corruption campaign. Wasteful spending and corruption are widely believed to have negatively affected Lebanon’s image abroad, hurt efforts to attract foreign investments, impeded economic growth and increased the production cost of Lebanese firms.
A study conducted in 1999 by the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies revealed that corruption was a major problem facing businesses in Lebanon, as 85 percent of respondents cited it as the major obstacle to business productivity.
Two-thirds of firms surveyed admitted to having paid bribes to state employees, nearly double the Middle East average. Moreover, 70 percent of companies know in advance the amount of the bribe they need to pay to complete a transaction in the public administration. — (Lebanon Invest )
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )