Lebanon is located on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is at the meeting point of three continents and, as such, has been the crossroads of many civilizations whose traces may still be seen today.
The strategic geographical location of Lebanon and the excellent overseas contacts of the business community through the Lebanese Diaspora make it an excellent gateway to the Middle East region for exporters new to the region. Subject to FCO travel advice we recommend visiting the market, as the Lebanese appreciate the personal approach to forming long-standing business relationships.
As the region's centre of trade and business, Lebanon is a host to several foreign companies. Lebanon has a free-market economy and the government does not restrict foreign investment. The Lebanese economy is based on liberal trade policies and strong private initiative. It is service-oriented; main growth sectors include banking and tourism.
Lebanon is a republic which has a parliamentary regime. It is based on the principle of the separation of power between the President of the Republic (elected for a period of 6 years), the council of Ministers and its presidency, and the parliament House (consisting of 128 deputies elected for a period of 4 years), and an independent judiciary authority.
Lebanon is the UK's first largest trading partner in the Levant and the UK's 6th trading partner in the Middle East. In May 2013 British Airways celebrated its successful six month return to Lebanon with Area Commercial Manager for the Middle East and Central Asia Paolo De Renzis stating that in response to strong demand British Airways had increased its Beirut flights from seven per week to 10 per week for their summer schedule.
The Lebanese government welcomes UK involvement in its reconstruction programme. A privatisation programme is currently planned, notably in power, water, telecommunications and aviation.
There are business opportunities in a range of sectors from construction to healthcare, consumer goods to oil & gas and in Service sectors (Financial Services including Insurance, other consultancies, tourism and leisure, and education).
Strengths of the market
- Strategic geographical location – Gateway between the East and West with no censorship on advertising.
- Strong banking sector
- Lebanon has liberal economic system in which the private sector plays a dominant role. There are no exchange regulations of any sort, and money can be freely remitted overseas.
- Lebanon enjoys free market investment policies with an attractive tax rate of 15%.
- Lebanon offers well-educated and highly skilled workforce in a multicultural society.
- Lebanon has signed the IPPA agreement with UK in September 2001.
- Lebanon offers good infrastructures, with state-of-the-art Port & Airport, a well connected road system and modern telecommunication facilities.
- Rich history/culture and an attractive tourist destination.
- Beirut the capital, a cosmopolitan city with vibrant nightlife that makes it a place to live in.
- Lebanon is a member of WTO which will allow the liberalization of services.
Challenges of the market
Although the business climate in Lebanon continues to improve, obstacles remain. Difficulties which foreign companies encounter include bureaucracy, lack of clarity and transparency in tax administration, the tax burden, and corruption. Lebanon also suffers of poor infrastructure – Traffic can be heavy in Beirut, particularly in rush hours.
Lebanon has a free-market economy and a strong laissez-faire commercial tradition. The Lebanese economy is service-oriented; with the main growth sectors being banking and tourism. The 1975-90 civil war seriously damaged Lebanon's economic infrastructure, and whilst much of the physical and financial damage has been mended, continued regional unrest and the crisis in neighbouring Syria have continued to weigh heavily on the economy and hamper growth.
As a result of the violence in neighbouring Syria, it was reported in May 2013 that tourism has dropped by 13% in the first part of the year on the back of a 20% drop in 2012. Tourism contributes a sizeable 22% of GDP. In May 2013, the rating agency Moody’s claimed that Lebanon’s growth prospects of 1%-2% annually (after high growth between 2007 and 2010) will barely sustain government borrowing. Lebanon has the world’s third highest debt burden after Japan and Greece, with current projections estimating it will rise to 133% of GDP after falling from its historic high of 172% of GDP in 2006.
Army Str., Serail Hill
PO Box 11-471 Beirut
Tel: 00961 1 960800
The following provides details of the UKTI staff in Lebanon and the main sectors they cover:
00 961 1 960831
Financial and Legal Services; Advanced Engineering; Security; Water; Construction; Energy (including oil & gas and renewables)
Yasmine El Hajj:
00 961 1 960824
Creative Industries; Food & Drink; Retail and Consumer Goods; Agriculture; Leisure and Tourism.
Tel: 00 961 1 960830
Education & Skills; Life Sciences; Environment; ICT