Round Table Discussion with Trade and Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas

The Swiss Business Council-Lebanon (SBC-L) organized, in cooperation with the Swiss Embassy in Lebanon, a round table discussion with Trade and Economy Minister, Nicolas Nahhas - at the Mövenpick Hotel and Resort in Beirut - touching on the trade and cultural ties between Lebanon and Switzerland.

The Swiss Ambassador to Lebanon, Ruth Flint, as well as SBC-L administrative board’s Habib Hatem both delivered speeches featuring high on the importance of deepening all bilateral ties and on the means of lowering the number of obstacles on the road of achieving a stronger mutual bond on all levels.

For his part, Minister Nahhas thanked the SBC-L as well as the Swiss diplomat for organizing the round table.

He later on gave a brief summary about the current economic situation in Lebanon, highlighting the boom the country has witnessed during recent years “from infrastructure to quality and growth in quality and standards”.

The Minister did not fail to mention the exceptionally strong banking system and private sector that have helped Lebanon survive all sorts of crises.

2010, however, marked high political problems. And according to Mr. Nahhas, some sectors reached a peak so high there was no room for further development. He added that the Lebanese government is studying the situation-related dossiers in order to come up with solutions for the Lebanese business world.

**Some of the main issues that are currently undergoing studies, according to the Trade and Economy Minister are:

  • Work law: having a better and more flexible relationship between the head of business and the employee, highlighting that mutual respect and productivity and interrelated;

  • Incentives to give: Lebanon has a very important asset, its location, which can become an incentive for free trade or other product import and easy distribution, thus becoming an economic region;

  • Reducing overhead costs such as electric or phone bills;

  • Encouraging the private sector to play a role in production and marketing;

  • Education: Lebanon has the worst system in terms of practicality. Many go into workforce without enough knowledge to have valuable productivity;

  • Safety network: Lebanon is facing a bad situation in the areas of security and pension. The cost is too important and is causing a negative impact. The government is therefore taking into consideration a socio-economic action plan;

  • Budget and Financial situations are carefully being examined.

Minister Nahhas also shed the light on the importance of tracking illegal imports and stopping them. He consequently asked all businesses facing illegal imports issues to bring them up to his Ministry for discussions in order to find appropriate measures and appropriate solutions.

Separately, he touched on the private sector liabilities (salary issues, cash flow problems, monetary liabilities with nothing in return), explaining that we are witnessing of a large inflation and the citizens have no purchasing power left. “It has to be legally and logically fixed”, he said, “The law has to be modified because at the dawn of its establishment, inflation was not as high as it is today”, the Minister concluded.

At the same occasion, the Head of Expert Goldsmiths and Jewelers Syndicate in Lebanon, Boghoss Kordian, called for his part the State for a more organized, more comprehensive handcraft vocation law that guarantees the workers’ rights. He also demanded that industrial technology be at the reach of everyone, for it has become a crucial cause to improve industrial profession.