The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon has processed over $120 million in projects this year and another $100 million is still under evaluation, the head of IDAL said Friday.
“It wasn’t as bad as we thought. The projects being executed after receiving IDAL’s approval are [worth] over $120 million, and this is close to the 2015 figures. We are currently evaluating requests for projects worth around $100 million,” Nabil Itani told The Daily Star.
Founded in 2001, government agency IDAL provides a framework for regulating investment activities in Lebanon, and offers investors a range of incentives and business support services. IDAL also offers tax incentives and tax exemptions to any company which employs hundreds of people in Lebanon.
Itani said most of the new projects involved technology and industry, with a noticeable decline in tourism and hotel investments this year.
“Most of the investors are keen to invest in IT and industrial projects. This trend has been growing over the past few years. Apart from the Summerland resort, which was officially inaugurated in September, we haven’t received new requests to open hotels in Lebanon,” he added.
Itani noted that most of the investors were Lebanese expatriates or immigrants. “The Lebanese diaspora is showing keen interest in investing in their homeland. I met many Lebanese businessmen in New York last month and most of them were exploring investment prospects in Lebanon,” he added.
Lebanon’s large diaspora is spread across all continents. The government has recently launched a broad campaign to lure back Lebanese businessmen based in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, Europe and Africa.
Itani said Arab Gulf investors had been shying away from Lebanon over the past five years due to regional tensions and the sharp fall in oil prices. “The drop in oil prices is one the main reasons behind the reluctance of Arab companies to make any major investment in Lebanon. Our focus now is on Lebanese expatriates,” he explained.
Gulf nationals represented the bulk of foreign investors in Lebanon before the Syrian war broke out. However, some of these investors are now trying to exit the Lebanese market and to sell the hotels they built to new investors.
Itani said IDAL had submitted several key projects to the Cabinet for approval. He added that foreign direct investment in 2016 declined by 3-4 percent compared to 2015.
Itani said in April 2016 that FDI in Lebanon reached $3.2 billion in 2015, adding that this represented 6.7 percent of national GDP.
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