Khoury encouraged expatriates to invest in Lebanon by saying that the country’s current economic slowdown is only temporary and it does not reflect the real capacity of the Lebanese economy. “For instance, Lebanon was capable, five years ago, to register a growth rate of 9 percent in addition to achieving record surplus in the balance of payments while the rest of the world was suffering from the worst financial crises,” he said.
Khoury attributed the economic slowdown to the political bickering that took place in the past few years in addition to the negative impact of the Syrian crisis and the flow of the hundreds of thousands of refugees to Lebanon.
Spillover from the regional turmoil in combination with a deteriorating domestic political process, have led to sluggish, below potential real GDP growth since 2011. According to the World Bank’s latest Lebanon Economic Monitor, real GDP growth in 2016 underwent a slight acceleration to reach an estimated 1.8 percent, compared to 1.3 percent in 2015.
The report estimated real GDP growth for 2017 to pick up somewhat to 2.5 percent as a result of progress made in the domestic political process, continued revival of the tourism sector and a slight improvement in real estate and construction.
Khoury said that despite the several crises that the country has been through it was able to maintain its position as a safe haven for deposits and a pioneer in preserving the freedom of money and capital transfers due to its sound financial and banking systems.
The minister said investment in the infrastructure, industry and trade sectors remains of utmost importance for economic development.
“In this framework, I would like to stress the important and very big role that Lebanon will play compared to other Arab countries in the reconstruction of Syria,” he said while emphasizing the importance of approving the Private Public Partnership in the investment process.
Khoury said his ministry had also drafted an economic road map in coordination with the Foreign Ministry to activate communication among the Lebanese in Lebanon and around the world.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Choucair, president of the Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture and Industry, said that the chamber is preparing for the launching of a business club which will be considered a platform where Lebanese companies from around the world meet to communicate and develop their work.
The conference, Friday, also included an intervention by Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan who called upon expatriates to help the local economy by limiting the trade deficit through encouraging the import of Lebanese products to the countries where they live.
Hajj Hasan gave an overview of the challenges facing the industrial sector in Lebanon by saying that the biggest problem is the dumping of imported products in the Lebanese market, which is creating an unfair competition with the local production. “Also, other countries protect their industries by putting restrictions on Lebanese exports,” he said.
© Copyright The Daily Star 2017.