BEIRUT: The investment applications processed by IDAL in 2013 shrank to $190 million from $240 million in 2012 due to the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, the head of the government-run agency said Thursday. “We processed around $190 million worth of investment requests last year compared to $240 million in 2012. But these requests still need the approval of the Cabinet to be able to implement them,” Nabil Itani told The Daily Star.
He said these requests could be passed by a new Cabinet easily because all the necessary measures to implement the investments had been taken.
“I don’t think any minister will object to these investments because they will create jobs,” Itani said.
According to the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon, the projects processed by the agency in 2013 created 892 direct jobs, mostly in the tourism sector.
Tourism represented 52 percent of the jobs created through IDAL last year, followed by 28 percent in the industrial projects.
Itani said that foreign direct investment in general in 2013 was close to $3.8 billion, almost identical to the figures in 2012.
As usual, the bulk of the FDI focused on real estate projects.
Itani said most of these investments were initiated by Lebanese businessmen and expatriates.
“Naturally, the absence of Arab tourists has caused lot of damage to the economic sector. However, we are still receiving lot of inquiries from potential investors,” he said.
Founded in 1994, IDAL’s main task is to promote Lebanon as a key investment destination and to attract, facilitate and retain investments in the country. IDAL also assists major investments that create hundreds of jobs with procuring tax exemptions and other benefits.
Itani said investors were paying more attention to high-tech industries and software programming although the size of these investments was relatively small compared to investments in hotels and resorts.
“There is a growing trend to invest in the IT sector in Lebanon. This sector is very promising and can create lot of jobs,” he added.
IDAL also gave incentives to a number of pharmaceutical factories.
In December 2013, IDAL inaugurated a $27 million pharmaceutical factory in the Chouf town of Jadra.
The Arwan plant has created 83 jobs and produces different types of medications that can meet the needs of the Lebanese market.
Itani said that no foreign investors had pulled their investments out of Lebanon despite the delicate conditions in the country.
The official also underlined the need to form a Cabinet as quickly as possible in order to restore confidence in Lebanon.
“The Syrian crisis has surely had a negative impact on Lebanon as foreign and Arab investors avoided Lebanon for security concerns,” Itani said. “As long as the Syrian conflict does not come to an end soon, then Lebanon will continue to pay a high price.”
Itani added that a new Cabinet could ease the tension in the country to some extent even if the war in Syria dragged on.
“The Cabinet can pass laws and approve important projects processed by IDAL,” he said. “If we wanted to bring in investments and attract more tourists then the first thing to do is form a Cabinet.”