Lebanon emerged from the war in the early 1990s and
within a few years had embarked upon a major programme
to reconstruct its social and urban infrastructure.
After tourism, the industrial sector had suffered
the most. Many factories were destroyed and have not
International consultants, planners, designers, architects,
industrialists and academics were recruited to regenerate
the country. Many Lebanese were amongst these specialists
drawn from major organizations around the word. The
local community too became involved with the programme,
with past differences put aside to confront the new
Lebanon is a small country with a small population,
but its heritage of trading since Phoenician times
ensures that international exporters should have an
Economic and Social Indicators
Area: 10,452 sq kms
Population (m): 3.6m
Labor force (m): 1.3 m
Annual average population growth rate: 1.4 per cent
Life expectancy: 71 years
Literacy: 86.4 per cent
Electricity consumption (kwh): 7.86 billion
Main telephone lines: 700,000
Unemployment (%): 18 per cent
Radio broadcast stations: AM 20 & FM 40
Television broadcast stations: 8
Internet Service Providers (ISP): 22
Inflation (%): under 2 per cent
Central Bank foreign exchange reserves: $8.5 billion
GDP growth (%): 2 per cent
Lebanon is keen to increase exports, and has organizations
at home and abroad to encourage this. In recent years,
international buyers have returned to purchase products
and establish permanent lines of supply. Which, American
import quotas restrict the freedom of US companies
to carry out such trade, Lebanon has just recently
signed an association agreement with the EU which
allows Lebanon goods freely into the EU.
The major industries in the country are banking, tourism,
food processing, jewelry, cement, textiles, mineral
and chemical products, wood and furniture products,
and metal fabrication.
Banking is one of Lebanon’s most successful
industries contributing more than 8 per cent of the
Up until early in the 20th Century, the banking sector
was only present in the Lebanon through exchange offices.
It was the growth of the silk industry and the exports
to France that finally prompted the setting up the
first bank, a branch of the Ottoman Bank, followed
shortly by the establishment of Credit Lyonnais. Since
the 1920s the banking sector has grown steadily.
In 1963 the Banque du Liban, The Republic’s
Central Bank, was established with the primary role
of regulating the domestic banking industry and issuing
the Lebanese currency, something that had, until then,
had been the responsibility of the privately owned
Banque de Syrie et du Liban. Through its monetary
policy, and in close cooperation with the Government,
the Bank endeavors to create a sound environment for
economic and social progress.
Today Lebanon has 63 banks, active mostly in trade
finance but also in project finance and private banking.
The Central Bank has been keen to see consolidation
in the banking industry and, by ensuring that the
law favors the acquiring bank, some twenty-one banks
have been merged with larger ones in recent years.
Foreign banks wishing to set up a branch in the country
(e.g. Citibank and the National Bank of Canada which
opened recently) are limited to one branch only with
the exception of BNP (France) and HSBC (formerly British
Bank of the Middle east) which are permitted to operate
a number of branches in recognition of their support
in carrying on business throughout the war years.
For those wishing to have more branches, such as the
Standard Chartered Bank, buying a majority share in
an existing local bank, is the route to adopt.
One of the major appeals for investors and depositors
in the Lebanese banking system is the banking secrecy
law of September 1956, one of the toughest in the
Recently and in response to international concern
on money laundering the Central Bank has, in cooperation
with the Government, formed an independent Investigation
Committee with extended prerogatives, such the forces
lifting of banking secrecy on suspected accounts,
and a task to investigate money-laundering operations
and to monitor compliance with the rules and procedures
of the law. As a result, Lebanon has now been placed
on the list of approved banking nations.
Foreign currencies, mainly the US Dollar, are often
used in day to day life because of their relatively
large proportion in total deposits (69.3% in December
2002) This is largely the result of high inflation
and a rapid depreciation of the Lebanese Pound in
the period 1978-1992. Monetary policy has since been
focused on stabilizing the exchange rate and controlling
inflation and monetary growth.
The link to the Greenback
Two thirds of banking deposits are in foreign currency
and of these the majority is in US dollars. Although
a large proportion of Lebanese business is with Europe,
there are no current plans to equate the Lebanese
currency to the Euro, and the secrecy laws of Lebanese
banking make it unlikely that there will be any enthusiasm
for such a move in future.
Some $51 billion are deposited in banks in Lebanon
- a relatively high per capita figure Paris II, an
economic summit held in October 2002, and convened
by President Chirac and Prime Minister Hariri to help
find ways of helping the Lebanese economy focused
specifically on extending the maturity of the national
debt - $30 billion (around 200% of GDP) which had
accumulated as the country recovered during the 1990s
from 15 years of war and to reduce its serving cost.
As a direct result of implementation of the government’s
programme for further fiscal and structural reforms
and privatization of state owned utilities the budget
deficit should start shrinking and, if current goals
are achieved the budget is should balance by 2005.
The national debt can then start declining.
The Bekaa valley
The traveler between Damascus and Beirut must cross
the Beqaa Valley. This beautiful and fertile valley
high in the Lebanese Mountains has many little treasures;
the temple of Ballbeck, the restaurants of Zahlé,
and the wine cave of Ksara and the village of Chtaura.
This latter village is the most improbable place for
a banking and shopping centre, but such is the case.
During the civil war and even after, citizens of Syria
and expatriate workers would cross from Damascus to
shop and deposit their money in one of the many banks.
Because normal banking facilities did not exist in
Syria, the Lebanese established a friendly neighborhood
bank just over the border. Having made their transactions,
the Syrians were then persuaded to spend their money
on luxury food stuffs, unavailable in their own country,
at the many supermarkets of the village.
Lebanon is keen to re-develop its tourism industry
and to revitalize its pre-war image as the playground
of the Middle East. As one of the more western countries
of the Middle East, Lebanon is one of the closest
to Europe. It offers major sporting activities from
snow skiing to water skiing and from pot-holing to
gambling, together with excellent facilities for tourists.
The archeological sites of the country are also legendary.
Fewer than a million tourists visit Lebanon each year,
of which a little under half are Arabs. The number
of Arab visitors has increased since September 11
2002 as they feel less welcome in the US. However,
the average tourist spends about $2,000 during his
stay. These figures encourage investors to develop
tourist attractions and facilities. Despite the large
number of hotels in existence, there is a continued
enthusiasm for Lebanon from the big international
groups; for example, Four Seasons, Intercontinental,
Marriott, etc. Some of the former landmark hotels
have been refurbished; the Phoenicia Intercontinental
(probably the best at the moment), the Vendome (with
its famous Jimmy’s Bar) and the newshound’s
favorite during the war, the Meridien Commodore. Sadly,
the St Georges Hotel, much loved by the intelligence
fraternity, has yet to be rejuvenated.
Lebanon is a small country but it is packed with things
to do both day and night. There many historical sites
to visit, many forms of entertainment - nightclubs,
restaurants and bars - many ways for the energetic
to indulge their sporting desires, and all of it easily
Lebanon has been famous for its wines for centuries.
Although small in comparison to France and the New
World wine regions, its production is excellent. Most
Lebanese will enthuse about their wines and everyone
will have their favorite and be able to quote good
and bad years. A visit to the larger local supermarkets
will demonstrate exactly the care and attention the
Lebanese give their wines. Different Chateaux will
have their wines laid out by the year, with prices
reflecting the quality of a particular vintage.
To sit by the Mediterranean Sea in the sunshine or
to dine outside amongst the pine-forested mountains
at night, sipping the local wines, has to be one of
Lebanon’s most pleasurable experiences. Add
to this the wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables that
will adorn any good repast, then you have a truly
Agriculture accounts for about 15 per cent of Lebanon’s
GDP and employs almost half the workforce. Despite
these impressive figures there is a general malaise
in this industry. Traditional farming methods, limited
export markets, damaged infrastructure and degraded
land as a result of the civil war all contribute to
this decline in agro industry.
Lebanon has excellent natural resources for agriculture
- fertile land, plentiful rain, abundant sunshine
and proximity to the European and Middle Eastern markets.
Fruit and vegetables, olives and tobacco are the principal
crops grown in the country. The ancient tobacco-growing
industry supports an equally archaic cigarette production
industry. Fruit and vegetables are grown throughout
Wine however, is the single success story in this
otherwise depressed industry. Several excellent varieties
of wine are made and are exported to Europe. Musar,
Ksara and Kefraya wines are the most common and are
available in UK outlets.
The Lebanese literacy rate is about 90 per cent-one
of the highest in the Arab world (Egypt’s rate,
for example, is about half this). About half the country’s
schools are private or State-aided and offer a final
Lebanese Baccalaureate certificate based upon the
European system. Some schools still offer an English
language curriculum, with the Broummana High School
being the most prestigious.
Lebanon has many good universities. The major Arabic
language public university is the University of Lebanon,
which has a new campus. The American University of
Beirut (AUB) is the most famous and most prestigious
of all education establishments in Lebanon and probably
the Middle East. Others such as St Joseph University
(Jesuit) Lebanese American University and Balamand
University are well regarded.
In the 1960s and 1970s Lebanon thrived on international
trade. Foreign companies set up their regional headquarters
in Lebanon because of the communications – transport
links and telecommunications.
In the early 1990s the prewar telecommunications system,
barely operational, was the first part of the infrastructure
to be modernized. Inevitably the Lebanese went for
the latest and the best and installed one of the most
up-to-date systems telecommunications in the world.
Lebanon’s information and communications industry
was established and has become one of the government’s
largest sources of revenue. If, as is likely, this
industry is privatized, it could once again take the
lead as Lebanon’s major sources of income.
Early Printing Press
In the north of Lebanon, amongst the foothills of
the Lebanese mountains, there are several communities
established by holy men. One of these is famous for
introducing printing to the Middle East in the 16th
century. Visitors to this active monastery of Saint
Anthony can see one of the original printing presses,
which was imported from Scotland.
The logistics of getting such a large piece of machinery
to such a remote location perched on the side of a
mountain must have given the engineers more than a
headache. Many of those involved in this exercise
never made it home! In a cave adjacent to the monastery
can be seen the chains fixed to the rock where the
insane were chained in the hope that St Anthony would
cure them. History does not recall how many Scots
suffered this fate!
The Lebanese media and entertainment sectors always
flourished. Despite the war, or even because of it,
huge numbers of small radio and television stations
operated - over 100 radio and about 80 TV stations.
Any self respecting militia group would expect to
have one or both. In the mid 1990s the government
brought in legislation to curb these excesses, so
that today the numbers have fallen dramatically with
8 TV stations and about 50 radio stations. Television
is supplied terrestrially or by satellite and cable.
In print, too, Lebanon is a country of plenty, with
13 daily newspapers and hundreds of magazines covering
every possible aspect of life in and out of Lebanon.
There is one English-language daily one long-established
French newspapers. For many years Lebanon has been
an important centre for centre for printing which
has enabled it to maintain a high standard of modern
technology. Many magazines from around the world,
even some from Britain, are printed there.
Lebanon is also a leader in advertising. Advertising
on the streets in newspapers, magazines and on television
is very sophisticated and well presented.
Beirut Central District
The BCD is an ambitious and so far successful plan
to rebuild the centre of Beirut. Old buildings have
been renovated and unsightly ones demolished. Some
areas are given over to pedestrians and to street
cafés and restaurants. An old cinema has been
tastefully converted into a Virgin Megastore. Areas
of archaeological interest have been exposed for public
viewing and other artefacts, especially mosaics, have
been removed to the National Museum. The area which
includes churches, mosques and the Parliament buildings
will soon boast the planned Garden of Forgiveness
which will link the three cathedrals and three mosques.
Hotels have reopened and others are being built. Office
shop space is now at a premium and prices for property
to buy or rent have increased dramatically.
Adjacent to the BCD and the Port is the Normandy Landfill.
During the war this was where the people of West Beirut
tipped their rubbish – into the sea. In the
early 1990s this landfill area was literally a mountain
of evil-smelling rubbish and rubble. In order to reclaim
the valuable land and use it for building, with all
the attendant ecological and environmental difficulties,
it was decided to remove and recycle its contents.
Every bucketful or rubbish down to the original sea
bed has been excavated and sorted into its many components
– tyres, concrete, household and medical waste,
munitions, earth, human remains, etc. It started as
a major environmental project, but has now delivered
to the BCD many hectares of additional land for development.
Environmental and Construction industries
After the war the programme to rebuild Lebanon was
a priority. Inevitably, at the forefront of this drive
was the reconstruction of the infrastructure. Organizations
such as Solidere, the Council for Development and
Reconstruction (CDR) and others were set up to monitor
and oversee the work. Such organizations, while considered
a private enterprise, were very much involved with
public and private funds. To carry out the work many
local and international contractors developed their
capabilities and presence in Lebanon. To supply these
industries construction material plants were established
or existing ones regenerated.
Cement plants were the major sector to be revitalized,
with foreign manufacturers looking to renew their
associations with local companies. These companies
became the driving force on the local stock market.
The cement industry today is not efficiently run and
has export capabilities, partly brought about as local
construction slows down.
Other material manufacturers also developed their
output to cope with the expected boom. Ceramics, aluminum,
plastics, pipes, were some of the major industries
Some of the major projects undertaken in the last
decade have been the Beirut Central District (BCD)
which is ongoing, a new airport with a runway for
international flights, major highways (including a
ring road and highway to Damascus), marine ports (including
the Normandy Landfill) and property development.
There are of course many smaller sectors of industry
in Lebanon though there is no heavy industry. Textiles
and leather, which under intense competition from
other regions has declined, could, under the new partnership
with Europe, recover. Pharmaceuticals are a growing
and specialized market exporting to Arab and Western
countries. Jewellery manufacture, very close to many
Lebanese women’s hearts, is carried out mainly
by the Armenian community in small workshops. The
quality (and the price) is high and it is therefore
aimed at a specialist market.
Another industry which sprung up after the war is
the international exhibition industry. This somewhat
unusual source of revenue started as a result of the
enthusiasm and need for the reconstruction of the
country and its industry. From relatively small beginnings
in large tents, this has now grown to several permanent
exhibition sites around the country, which displays
of food, office equipment, antiques, machinery, fashion,
telecoms, building materials, etc. There are also
plans to develop a major conference centre overlooking
the Mediterranean Sea near the Beirut Central District.
N. 2385 of 17/1/1924 as amended by law N. 76 of 3/4/1999
( articles 2, 5, 15, 49 and 85 ) lays down as follows:
The author of a literary or artistic work, by the
very fact of authorship, has absolute right of ownership
over the work, without obligation of recourse to formal
procedures . The author will himself enjoy the benefit
of exploitation of his work, and he possesses exclusive
rights of publication and of the reproduction under
any form whatsoever. Whether the work in question
comes under the public domain or not those persons
will be liable to imprisonment for a period of one
to three years and to fine of between five and fifty
million Lebanese pounds, or to either one of these
penalties, who 1-will have appended or caused to be
appended a usurped name on a literary or artistic
work; 2-will have fraudulently imitated the signature
or trademark adopted by an author, with a view to
deceiving the buyer; 3-will have counterfeited a literary
or artistic work; 4-or will have knowingly sold, received,
or put on sale or into circulation a work which is
counterfeit or signed with a forged signature. The
punishment will be increased in the event of repetition.