Friday, February 13, 2009

Lebanese economy

BEIRUT: The United States Department of Commerce's 2009 Country Commercial Guide for Lebanon highlighted the country's favorable investment climate and its liberal economic system, but said that red tape and an unpredictable operating environment are some of the issues hurting Lebanon's image as a country open for investment, as reported by Lebanon This Week, the economic publication of the Byblos Bank Group. It said the country has very few restrictions on the movement of capital across its borders, foreign investors are allowed to manage and hold business and private assets without any restrictions, and the government does not require investors to engage in any particular sector or project. The guide indicated that starting a new business in Lebanon is relatively simple and open to all. It said petty corruption remains an issue, adding that corruption is more extensive in government contracts, taxation and real estate registration than in private sector deals and that Lebanon is not a signatory of the OECD convention on combating bribery.

The U.S. Department of Commerce said Lebanon is the 68th largest market for U.S. exports, adding that the U.S. exported $1.1 billion worth of goods to Lebanon, representing an 81 percent increase year-on-year.

The top 5 U.S. exports to Lebanon in 2008 were vehicles, mineral fuel and oil, machinery, agricultural commodities, and medical equipment. It noted that major competitors of U.S. companies in Lebanon include French, Italian, German, British, Korean, and Chinese firms. The Guide said leading Lebanese sectors for U.S. exports and investment include the automobile sector, air conditioning & refrigeration equipment, drugs & pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, apparel, education services, and agriculture.

The US Department of Commerce expected the U.S. share of the local auto market to reach 17 percent in 2008, adding that demand for U.S. automotive products such as brakes, clutches, engine lubricants, and safety accessories are increasing because of their quality advantage over foreign competitors. Also, U.S. air conditioning and refrigeration exports to Lebanon reached $111m in first 8 months of last year, with a projected market share of 10 percent in 2008. Further, U.S. pharmaceuticals accounted for about 6 percent of total pharmaceutical drugs imports in the first 8 months of 2008. It said Lebanon is the leading importer of pharmaceuticals in the Levant, as 95 percent of the $545m market consists of imported medicine. Also, U.S. exports of medical equipment reached $34m in the first 8 months of 2008, and U.S. market share was expected to reach 27 percent in 2008. It noted that Lebanon is an ideal location for establishing a regional office to cover the Levant, including Iraq.

U.S. apparel exports to Lebanon reached around $7 million; constituting around 3 percent of total apparel imports to Lebanon, while US agricultural exports totaled $148m, equivalent to 8.7 percent of agricultural imports. Major U.S. agricultural exports to Lebanon include dairy products, cereals, beverages and spirits and tobacco. Finally, it noted that Lebanon has one of the best educational systems in the Middle East with 125,000 students enrolled in universities throughout Lebanon and over 2,100 Lebanese students studying in the U.S.

In parallel, the US Department of Commerce considered the Information & Communication Technology (ICT), pharmaceuticals and insurance sectors as offering the best prospects. It said Lebanon has the fundamental building blocks needed to become a regional center for technology that include a highly-educated and multilingual workforce, a strong private sector, world-class advertising firms, and multi-lingual media content providers and web portals. Additionally, Lebanon is the leading importer of pharmaceutical drugs in the Levant region and has over 50 pharmaceutical importing firms. - Lebanon This Week

From The Daily Star

No comments: