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Major Industries

Regeneration of Lebanon

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 been rebuilt.

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 challenge.

Lebanon is a small country with a small population, but its heritage of trading since Phoenician times ensures that international exporters should have an interest.

Economic and Social Indicators

Stats 2002
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 national GDP.

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 word….

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 accessible.

Lebanese Wine

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 memorable occasion.


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 the country.

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 concerned.

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.

Other industries

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.

Decree 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.



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