Lebanon: Government plans afoot to to boost economy

Published December 19th, 2012 - 10:18 GMT
Lebanon's government is planning a seriers of short-term initiatives to boost the struggling economy
Lebanon's government is planning a seriers of short-term initiatives to boost the struggling economy

The Cabinet [in Lebanon] will take a series of short-term measures to shore up the economy amid the current downturn, a minister said Tuesday.

“The measures will include offering incentives for foreign investment, extending grace periods for urgent [private sector] loan payments, and vitalizing trade and tourism through a period of discounts,” Minister Nicolas Nahas said.

Nahas, who was speaking at the opening of the End of Year Economic Forum, organized by Data Investment Consult, added that long-term measures include the government expediting oil and gas exploration and introducing public-private partnerships to advance infrastructure efficiency.

Nahas, who admitted the chances of an economic rebound are dim as the conflict in Syria escalates, said the real estate and services sectors can benefit from demand from Syrian nationals taking refuge in Lebanon.

“Lebanon can benefit from Syrian investors through demand on real estate, educational and health care services, as well as re-exporting goods to the Syrian market,” he said.

A settlement to the Syrian conflict, he added, would shore up growth ceilings to levels registered up to 2010.

But Nahas reiterated that Lebanon needs to overhaul the labor market and educational policies to improve efficiency and in a competitive way.

“Lebanon cannot provide jobs for thousands of young people who graduate every year, and yet it hosts more than 500,000 foreign workers,” he said.

The Lebanese public sector, he said, is oversized, representing more than 28 percent of the economy, and puts a great burden on state finances.

Amine Awad, member of the Banking Control Commission, reaffirmed that the Central Bank’s goal for banks exceeds Basel III recommended Capital Adequacy Ratios.

He said banks would start implementing some of the tougher regulations on Dec. 31, concluding requirements by Dec. 31, 2015, three years ahead of the deadline.

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