As part of its tours of the industrialists across Lebanese regions, the Cedar Oxygen Fund, in cooperation with the Association of Lebanese Industrialists (ALI), organized a workshop at the Kadri Hotel in Zahle, titled "The Needs of Bekaa Industrialists," held under the patronage of Minister of Industry, Georges Boujikian, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Alex Moradian, President of the Industrial Finance Committee at ALI, Sakhr Azar, President of the Association of Industrialists in the Bekaa, Nicolas Abu Faisal, Founder and President of the Cedar Oxygen Association, Alexandre Harkous, and ALI President Fadi Gemayel, who participated via Zoom technology, next to a crowd of industrialists.

Harkous confirmed that Cedar Oxygen's goal was to uphold the industrialists of Lebanon, meet all their needs, and help as many of them as possible, noting that 12 industrial establishments have benefited from the Fund's facilitations, and 32 out of 43 additional requests have been so far accepted. He pointed out that "Cedar Oxygen is working to attract foreign investors through a cooperation agreement with international funds to secure an additional LBP 50 million in aid."

He announced that the Fund's team is in the process of organizing a Lebanese industrial week at Expo 2020 in Dubai to promote national industries to the world under the slogan "Made in Lebanon".

He also revealed contacts with Head of Carrefour Group in France -- who is of Lebanese origin -- and with a wholesale market with the aim of exporting Lebanese products to France.

Harkous stated that the Bekaa workshop was the sixth of its kind with the industrialists of Lebanon, after Choueifat, Keserwan, Metn, Tripoli, and Tyre, concluding his address by emphasizing the importance of solidarity among all stakeholders in these difficult and exceptional circumstances, for the sake of ensuring the continuity of the industrial sector, the preservation of job opportunities and the creation of new ones.

Boujikian, in turn, stressed that the meeting was dedicated to informing Bekaa industrialists of the services provided by the fund, which was initially set up to lift the burdens of remittances and financing off industrialists' shoulders.

"Industrialists seek to increase production and export and open up to new foreign markets. The more they maintain good production, the more prestigious the Lebanese brand becomes, and thus in greater demand by consumers. The competition is fierce in this demanding markets. And since the Lebanese were able to secure the marketing of their products in countries that are more stringent in terms of specifications, we are invited to network with the Lebanese expatriates who are a force to be reckoned with."

He stressed that, "thanks to Cedar Oxygen and other funds and initiatives, along with the capitals of the Lebanese residing abroad who still believe in a better future for Lebanon, the Lebanese industry will be further strengthened, and it will find in Lebanon an incubating environment, especially in light of the procedures and measures taken by the Ministry of Industry to rid the sector of all the violating institutions and all the industrialists who do not adhere to specifications and standards."

Boujikian concluded his word by shedding light on the leading Lebanese industrial institutions that cover the local market and compete in foreign markets.

In turn, Gemayel pointed out that the idea of launching the fund was accompanied by the emergence of issues resulting from transfers abroad. He added: "We, as a party most affected, adopted a proactive measure to avoid the exacerbation of the crisis, approaching the Central Bank of Lebanon and demanding that a solution be found, similar to what happened and is happening in other countries that have fallen into crises resembling the Lebanese crisis. We gave an overview of the reality of the sector, which is characterized by unique features, and presented our vision to which the Central Bank responded positively, deeming it essential for the economy as a whole, not just for industrialists, as it eases the trade deficit."

Gemayel also pointed out that a group of internationally prominent Lebanese in the world of stock exchange and finance welcomed the positive stance taken by the Central Bank in terms of setting the initial capitals for the Fund. Hence, the Cedar Oxygen Fun headed by Alexander Harkous became a reality and is now financing the purchase of raw materials for production, and furthering the possibility of investments in machinery, equipment, and energy insurance.

In a word he addressed to attendees, Azar mentioned the difficult and complex conditions that the Lebanese currently live in, referring to the recent political crises and stances that led to a near rupture in ties between Lebanon and the Gulf states, describing such acts as irresponsible and hasty, and stressing that the continuation of such a behavior would lead to the total cut-off of all channels of communication, exchange, and export, which would double the burden weighing heavy on industrialists.

Addressing Minister Boujikian, he solicited his utmost wisdom and appealed for an initiative to be taken, under the government's umbrella, to resolve this issue in order to restore ties between Lebanon on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States on the other hand.

He also called upon the state to unfreeze industrialists' funds, rebuild confidence in the banks, and ensure security and stability in the country. In Azar's words, the state has not been up to the present challenges, "and has made a few, albeit timid, initiatives while, on the other hand, major internal and external efforts and private initiatives were launched, among which the Cedar Oxygen project, which I consider as a much-needed glimmer of hope."

Abu Faisal pointed out that industrialists need financing because their money is being held hostage in banks, and incomes have degenerated due to the crisis, stressing the need to work on financing so as to increase the volume of exports. He hoped that small industries would be taken into consideration and work would be conducted as an integrated and solid team. He finally shed light on the industrial revival witnessed by the country, especially in the Bekaa region, again pointing out that what is required is to open the door for export, reconsider interest rates, and revise the administrative procedures adopted when applying for any type of financing.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Agricultural Development Company - Tanmia, Moussa Freiji, made an intervention in which he conveyed the cry of industrialists in general and the Bekaa industrialists in particular, and reviewed the situation of the industrial sector, its concerns, and the difficulties it faces at present.

General Manager of Cedar Oxygen Lebanon, Anthony Jabbour, detailed to his audience the financial facilities provided by the fund to a number of Lebanese industrialists, and the terms and objectives set by the Fund.


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