Lebanon

Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
July 19, 2018

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Executive SummaryShare    

Lebanon is open to foreign direct investment and has many advantages that encourage foreign companies to set up offices in the country. These include a free-market economy, the absence of capital controls on foreign exchange, a well-developed banking system linked to the international financial system, a highly-educated labor force, good quality of life, limited restrictions on investors, and a currency pegged to the U.S. Dollar. However, issues that continue to cause frustration among local and foreign businesses include institutionalized corruption, political risk, bureaucratic over-regulation, arbitrary licensing, outdated legislation, an ineffectual judicial system, high taxes and fees, lack of transparency, and opaque procurement processes.

In April 2018, the Lebanese government presented a multi-billion dollar Capital Investment Plan (CIP) to 48 countries and institutions at the 2018 Paris CEDRE investment conference.

Lebanon received over USD 11 billion in pledges to revitalize infrastructure, subject to Lebanon carrying out long-delayed reforms in public finance management and other areas. To maximize the impact of potential increased public investment via the CIP and to demonstrate political will, Lebanon also presented to donors its economic vision. The government's vision aims to increase the level of public and private investment; ensure economic and financial stability through fiscal adjustments; implement sectoral reforms (e.g. fighting corruption, modernization of the public sector, and public finance management); and develop a strategy to reinforce and diversify Lebanon’s productive sectors and realize its export potential.

Increased legislative activity in 2017 resulted in the adoption of a new electoral law, which paved the way for May 2018 parliamentary elections, the first state budget in 12 years, and a Public Private Partnership Law to involve private investors in major infrastructure projects. Lebanon also awarded its first off-shore hydrocarbon exploration contracts in January 2018.

The business climate remains sensitive to regional political and security developments. The Syria conflict has negatively impacted the Lebanese economy, cutting off one of Lebanon’s major markets and a transport corridor to other markets. Lebanon continued to suffer from long-term structural weaknesses predating the Syria crisis, including weak infrastructure, poor service delivery, and chronic high debt. Lebanon’s debt-to-GDP ratio is the third highest in the world. Most of the debt is held by local banks. As for the public deficit, it reached 7.1 percent of GDP in 2017 and is a concern for investors. However, the Central Bank believes Lebanon should not face difficulties in financing its deficit and rolling over sovereign maturities due in 2018 given a 2.7 percent increase in 2017 overseas remittances and continued growth in deposits in private banks (a 3.8 percent increase in 2017). The Central Bank asserts that it will maintain monetary and financial stability, reassuring investors that, as in the past, there will be no debt defaults or currency depreciation.

Lebanon welcomes U.S. investments. Opportunities exist for U.S. companies in the energy sector, particularly for power production and oil and gas exploration. Information and communication technology, healthcare, safety and security, environment, and franchising have historically attracted U.S. investments.

Table 1

Measure

Year

Index/Rank

Website Address

TI Corruption Perceptions Index

2017

143 of 175

http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview

World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”

2018

133 of 190

http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings

Global Innovation Index

2017

81 of 128

https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator

U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)

2016

USD 294 million

http://www.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/

World Bank GNI per capita

2016

USD 7,980

http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign InvestmentShare    

Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment

Lebanon is open to FDI. The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) is the national agency responsible for promoting investment in Lebanon. IDAL has the authority to award licenses and permits for new investment in specific sectors. IDAL also grants special incentives and exemptions for projects implemented by local and foreign investors (Investment Law No. 360). IDAL facilitates strategic international and local partnerships through joint ventures, equity participation, acquisition, and other mechanisms. Moreover, it provides legal and administrative advice and sectoral research for potential investors. In February 2018, IDAL established a Business Support Unit to provide legal advice and free financial services to startups across sectors. IDAL publishes its investment incentives online at http://www.investinlebanon.gov.lb.

Lebanon’s CIP will rely in large part on private sector financing towards its USD 23 billion target. The CEDRE investment conference hosted by France in April 2018 rallied the international community to assist Lebanon with initial concessional financing. Donors pledged over USD 11 billion, of which more than 90 percent are in soft-loans and USD 860 million in grants for Phase I (2018-2021). These funds are contingent upon structural economic reforms in fiscal management, electricity tariffs, and transparent public procurement, among many others. The CIP focused on investment opportunities in transport, water and irrigation, wastewater, electricity, telecom, and solid waste management. Investors may reference the CIP online at: http://www.pcm.gov.lb/arabic/ListingAndPDFWithDropdown.aspx?pageid=11222.

The High Council for Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships (HCP), under the Prime Ministry coordinates the implementation of Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects. Lebanon identified 18 such projects at CEDRE. The HCP will appoint steering committees that involve the relevant government stakeholders to transparently develop project requirements and tender documents. U.S. investors may review PPP projects online at http://hcp.gov.lb.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign private entities may establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in business enterprises and may engage in all types of remunerative activities. Lebanese law allows the establishment of joint-stock corporations, limited liability, and offshore and holding companies. Specific requirements apply for holding and offshore companies, real estate, insurance, media (television and newspapers) and banking.

Legislative Decree No. 35 (August 5, 1967), under the Commercial Code, permits foreigners to own and manage 100 percent of limited liability companies (Société à Responsabilité Limitée - SARL), except if the company engages in certain commercial activities such as exclusive commercial representation. In these cases, Lebanese should hold a majority of the capital, and the manager should also be Lebanese (Legislative Decree No. 34 dated August 5, 1967).

Legislative Decree No. 304 of the Commercial Code (December 24, 1942) governs joint-stock corporations (Société Anonyme Libanaise - SAL). Limitations related to foreign participation stipulates that: 1) the majority of the board of directors should be Lebanese (Article 144); 2) board members must be shareholders (Article 147); 3) one-third of capital shares should be held by Lebanese for companies that provide public utility services (Article 78); and 4) capital shares and management in cases of exclusive commercial representation are limited (Legislative Decree No. 34 dated August 5, 1967). In November 2016, the Parliament passed Law 75 prohibiting joint stock corporations from issuing bearer shares and required them to replace their existing bearer shares with nominal shares which identify the owner. In the financial sector, including banking and insurance, establishments must take the form of a joint-stock company.

Holding and offshore companies are structured as joint-stock corporations and governed by Legislative Decree No. 45 (on holdings) and Legislative Decree No. 46 (on offshore companies), both dated June 24, 1983 and amended by Law No. 19, dated September 5, 2008. A foreign non-resident chairman/general manager of a holding or an offshore company is exempt from the obligation of holding work and residency permits. Law No. 772, dated November 2006, exempts holding companies from the obligation to have two Lebanese persons or legal entities on their board of directors. All offshore companies must register with the Beirut Commercial Registry. Offshore banking, trust, and insurance companies are not permitted in Lebanon.

Law No. 296, dated April 3, 2001, amended the 1969 Law No. 11614 and governs acquisition of property by foreigners. The 2001 law eased legal limits on foreign ownership of property to encourage investment in Lebanon, especially in industry and tourism, abolished discrimination for property ownership between Arab and non-Arab nationals, and set real estate registration fees at approximately six percent for both Lebanese and foreign investors. The law permits foreigners to acquire up to 3,000 square meters (around 32,000 square feet) of real estate without a permit but requires cabinet approval for acquisitions exceeding this threshold. The cumulative real estate acquisition by foreigners may not exceed three percent of total land in any district. Cumulative real estate acquisition by foreigners in the Beirut region may not exceed ten percent of the total land area. The law prohibits individuals not holding an internationally-recognized nationality from acquiring property in Lebanon. In practice, this restriction attempts to prevent Palestinian refugees who are long-term residents in Lebanon from owning property.

The Lebanese Government does not review FDI transactions for national security considerations.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Lebanon is not a member of either the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the World Trade Organization (WTO). The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) last performed an investment policy review in 2003. UNCTAD and IDAL plan to conduct an investor perception survey and Investment Policy Review in mid-2017 and are expected to publish its results by the end of the year. IDAL publishes reports on key sector online at http://investinlebanon.gov.lb/en/sectors_in_focus

Business Facilitation

Lebanon’s Ministry of Justice publishes online required procedures, documents, and payments needed to conclude the registration of any company at www.justice.gov.lb under the Citizen Services tab. According to the Ministry of Economy and Trade (MoET), the registration process takes approximately one day and requires a notary public. There is no other way to register businesses. Foreign companies are required to register electronically. MoET publishes a list of documents and procedures for foreign companies and exclusive agencies at http://www.economy.gov.lb/en/what-we-provide/trade/companies-department/. Investment authority IDAL also provides a portal for doing businesses in Lebanon and outlines all requirements at http://investinlebanon.gov.lb/en/doing_business.

MoET established a Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) unit in 2005. The unit focuses on policy and governance services to improve Lebanon’s business environment, offering linkages within the business community and advice on financing. MoET defines enterprises with less than 10 employees as micro-enterprises, firms with less than 50 employees as small enterprises, and those with less than 100 employees as medium enterprises. In 2014, the unit launched Lebanon’s SME Strategy: A Roadmap to 2020, but the Ministry has yet to implement its proposals.

Outward Investment

Lebanon neither promotes nor incentivizes outward investment, nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation TreatiesShare    

BITs or FTAs

Lebanon does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. However, the United States and the MoET signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2006, which pledged both countries to foster an environment conducive to mutual trade and investment. The TIFA requires both parties to set up a United States-Lebanon Council on Trade and Investment that would meet biannually or more to consult on trade and investment impediments and other issues of concern. The council, which has yet to be established, will solicit the views of private sector representatives in both countries. Under the TIFA, the United States and Lebanon agreed to a consultation mechanism that may be activated by either party within 60 days in the event of a dispute or other development affecting trade relations.

Lebanon signed the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (ENP) agreement in 2002, which came into force in April 2006. Lebanon reduced tariffs on imported products from the European Union (EU) in 2008. The EU and Lebanon finalized a review of the ENP in November 2015. Lebanon also signed the Convention on Pan-Euro-Mediterranean Preferential Rules of Origin in October 2014, which Parliament ratified in February 2017.

Lebanon and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2004. In November 2010, Lebanon and Turkey signed an association agreement to establish a free trade area and reduce barriers to the free movement of goods, services, capital, and people between the two countries over the subsequent ten years. The agreement is not yet ratified. Lebanon also signed the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement, which gradually replaced the bilateral FTAs signed with Arab countries including Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Sudan and the Gulf Cooperation Council states. A regional Economic and Trade Association Council between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey was announced in July 2010. Lebanon plans to join the Agadir Free Trade Agreement (Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and Tunisia) once the accession process is finalized. Lebanon launched free trade agreement negotiations with MERCOSUR countries in 2016.

Lebanon has signed bilateral investment agreements with the following (in alphabetical order, as of January 2018): Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium/Luxemburg, Benin, Bulgaria, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Korea (South), Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, OPEC Fund, Pakistan, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sudan, Sultanate of Oman, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Yemen. For more information, please visit the Ministry of Finance’s website on: http://www.finance.gov.lb/en-us/Finance/IA/IPA/.

Lebanon does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States. A full list of all the countries with which Lebanon has signed taxation agreements can be found on the Ministry of Finance’s website at http://www.finance.gov.lb/en-us/Finance/IA/TC/Pages/default.aspx. In October 2017, Parliament increased the Value Added Tax from 10 percent to 11 percent, the corporate tax on financial institutions from 15 percent to 17 percent, and the tax on interest earned on bank deposits from 5 percent to 7 percent. The revised tax law levied a USD 53.10 import duty on shipping containers. The government also enacted a Petroleum Taxation Law, which applies to firms extracting hydrocarbons from Lebanon's seabed.

3. Legal RegimeShare    

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Private firms should exercise caution when bidding on public projects. Lebanese Government agencies often awards contracts by mutual agreement, without a formal tendering process. Public institutions regularly evade the Procurement Law and full and open competition by splitting contract requirements into smaller solicitations whose values do not exceed government agency procurement limits. A modern Procurement Law awaits Parliamentary approval. The Central Inspection Office oversees government administrative processes and the Court of Audit has oversight over public expenditures.

The procedures for business entry, operation, and exit are not streamlined and are plagued by excessive regulation. However, the process does not discriminate against foreign investors. International companies face an unpredictable and opaque operating environment and often encounter unanticipated obstacles or costs late in the process. Despite this, the World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business report (http://www.doingbusiness.org) notes that it takes entrepreneurs 15 days to start a business in Lebanon, compared to the average of 18.6 days in the MENA region.

Trademark registration, economic and trade indicators, and market surveillance reports, are available online at: http://www.economy.gov.lb. However, some procedures, including those related to protecting intellectual property rights, still require the right-holder to visit the ministry in person to finalize and pay required dues.

The government does not publish proposed draft laws and regulations for public comment, but a parliamentary commission may invite private sector stakeholders to comment on legislation. Telecom Law No. 431 requires the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) to issue regulations in draft for public consultation to promote transparency and enable the general public to shape future regulations. The TRA has not introduced new regulations since the term of its executive board expired in February 2012. All legislation, decrees, decisions, and official announcements are published in the Official Gazette. In general, legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are consistent with international norms. Publicly listed companies adhere to international accounting standards.

Lebanon passed the Access to Information Law in January 2017 to promote transparency in the public sector. The law permits anyone, including foreigners, to request information from government agencies. Public institutions are in the process of automating the process and appointing points of contact for these requests. A whistleblower protection law, however, has lagged in Parliament since 2010. Lebanon also joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (EITI), a global standard to promote transparency of the extractive sector, but has not yet formed the required multi-stakeholder committee. The EITI standard requires annual data on licenses, contracts, beneficial ownership, payments, revenues and production. In addition, there is draft legislation promoting transparency in the oil and gas sector that awaits Parliament’s approval.

International Regulatory Considerations

Lebanon is not part of any regional economic block. It adopts a variety of standards based on type of product and product destination. Lebanon is not a member of the WTO, but has held observer status since 1999. Lebanon does, however, have a WTO/TBT Enquiry Point that handles enquiries from WTO Member States and other interested parties.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Lebanon has a civil (Roman and Codified Law) legal system inspired by the French civil procedure code (three degrees of jurisdictions: First Instance, Appeal, and Supreme Court). Ownership of property is enforced by registering the deed in the Property Registry. Lebanon has a written commercial law and contractual law. Lebanon has commercial, civil and penal courts, but no specialized courts to hear intellectual property (IP) claims. Civil and/or penal courts adjudicate IP claims. Lebanon has an administrative court, the State Council, which handles all disputes involving the state. Lebanon has a labor court in seven out of its nine governorates to hear claims of unfair labor practices. The current judicial process is generally competent and reliable on a procedural basis. However, compensation sometimes is perceived as unfair.

Local courts accept investment agreements drafted subject to foreign jurisdictions if they do not contravene Lebanese law. Judgments of foreign courts are enforced subject to the Exequatur obtained. Cases in Lebanese courts are not settled rapidly due to a shortage of judges, inadequate support structures, and administrative delays in the handling of cases. The Lebanese Constitution guarantees the judicial system's independence. However, the politicians and powerful lobbying groups sometimes interfere in the court system.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

A foreigner may establish a business under the same conditions as a Lebanese national but must register the business in the Commercial Registry. Foreign investors who do not manage their business from Lebanon do not need to apply for a work permit. However, foreign investors who own and manage their businesses within Lebanon must apply for an employer work permit and a residency permit. Employer work permits stipulate that a foreign investor's capital contribution cannot be less than USD 67,000. The investor must also hire three Lebanese employees and register them in the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) within the first six months of employment.

Companies established in Lebanon must abide by the Lebanese Commercial Code and are required to retain the services of a lawyer to serve as a corporate agent. Local courts are responsible for enforcing contracts. There are no sector-specific laws on acquisitions, mergers, or takeovers, with the exception of bank mergers.

Lebanese law does not differentiate between local and foreign investors, except in land acquisition (see Real Property section). Foreign investors can generally establish a Lebanese company, participate in a joint venture, or establish a local branch or subsidiary of their company without difficulty. Specific requirements apply for holding and offshore companies, real estate, insurance, media (television and newspapers), and banking.

Lebanese law allows the establishment of joint-stock corporations, limited liability, and offshore and holding companies. However, offshore and holding companies must be joint-stock corporations (Société Anonyme Libanaise - SAL). These are governed in separate chapters under the Lebanese Commercial Code.

IDAL’s website (http://investinlebanon.gov.lb/) is a one-stop-shop for investors and provides information on investment legislation, regulations, and starting a business. IDAL’s proposed changes to foreign direct investment laws and regulations, including amending requirements for IT companies to benefit from IDAL incentives, are pending government approval.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Lebanon has not enacted a law that governs competition. Local courts review transactions for competition-related claims.

Expropriation and Compensation

Land expropriation in Lebanon is relatively rare. The Law on Expropriation (Law No. 58, dated May 29, 1991, Article 1) and Article 15 of the Constitution specify that expropriation must be for a public purpose and calls for fair and adequate compensation. Compensation is paid at the time of expropriation, but is often perceived as below fair market value. The government does not discriminate against foreign investors, companies, or their representatives on expropriations.

The government established three real estate companies in the mid-1990’s to encourage reconstruction and development in Greater Beirut following the Lebanese Civil War: 1) private corporation Solidere for Beirut’s downtown commercial center, 2) private corporation Linord, for northern Beirut, 3) and public institution Elyssar for the southwest suburbs of Beirut. However, Linord has been dormant for years, and Elyssar’s projects have stalled since 2007. The government granted these three companies the authority to expropriate certain lands for development under the Law on Expropriation. They have, however, faced serious legal challenges from landowners and squatters.

Dispute Settlement

Lebanon is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention). Lebanon ratified the 1958 Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention) in 2007. Lebanese law conforms to both conventions.

The government accepts international arbitration related to investment disputes. In cases involving concessions or public projects, the government does not accept binding international arbitration unless the contract includes an arbitration clause that was obtained through prior approval by Cabinet decree. However, there is an exception for investors from countries that have a signed and ratified investment protection agreement with Lebanon that stipulates international arbitration in case of disputes. In the past, the government has faced challenges related to previously awarded contracts and resorted to international arbitration for resolution. To post's knowledge, there are no known new cases. In 2010, the government settled a dispute with a Chinese contracting company working to expand the northern port of Tripoli.

International arbitration is accepted as a means to settle investment disputes between private parties. The Lebanese Centre for Arbitration was created in 1995 by local economic organizations, including the Lebanese chambers of commerce, industry, and agriculture. The Centre resolves domestic and international conflicts related to trade and investment. Its statutes are similar to those of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris, and its conciliation and arbitration rules are modeled on those of the Paris ICC. Judgments of foreign courts are enforced subject to the exequatur obtained.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Lebanon does not have a Bankruptcy Law. However, the Commercial Code (Book No. 5, Articles 459-668) and the Penal Code govern insolvency and bankruptcy. By law, a secured creditor has the right to a share of the assets of a bankrupt party. Verdicts involving monetary values in contract cases are made according to the currency of the contract or its equivalent in Lebanese Pounds (LBP or Lebanese Lira) at the official conversion rate on the day of the payment. Workers can resort to the Labor Court and the National Social Security Fund to recover pay and benefits from local and foreign firms in bankruptcy. Fraudulent bankruptcy is criminalized.

4. Industrial PoliciesShare    

Investment Incentives

Lebanon’s Investment Law encourages investment in information technology, telecom, media, tourism, industry, agriculture, and agro-industry. The law divides the country into three investment zones, with different incentives in each zone. These include facilitating permits for foreign labor and tax benefits, which range from a five-year, 50 percent reduction on income and dividend distribution taxes to a total exemption of these taxes for 10 years, starting from the date of operation (tied to the issuance of the first invoice). Companies that list 40 percent of their shares on the Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE) are exempt from income tax for two years. The Law also introduces tailored incentives through package deals for large investment projects, regardless of the project’s location. These may include tax exemptions for up to 10 years, reductions on construction and work permit fees, and a total exemption on land registration fees. IDAL exempts joint-stock companies that benefit from package deal incentives from the obligation to have a majority of a board of directors be Lebanese nationals (Law No. 771, dated November 2006). Investors who seek to benefit from work permit incentives under package deals must hire two Lebanese for every foreigner and register them with the NSSF. Several amendments to the Investment Law are currently awaiting parliamentary approval and would expand incentives and increase the pool of ICT start-up companies. IDAL’s amendments to decrees related to investment incentives are pending cabinet approval and, if approved, will increase the number of benefitting companies.

Other laws and legislative decrees provide tax incentives and exemptions depending on the type of investment and its geographical location. Industrial investments in rural areas benefit from tax exemptions of six or 10 years, depending on specific criteria (Law No. 27, dated July 19, 1980, Law No. 282, dated December 30, 1993, and Decree No. 127, dated September 16, 1983). Exemptions are also available for investments in South Lebanon, Nabatiyeh, and the Bekaa Valley (Decree No. 3361, dated July, 2, 2000). For example, new industrial establishments manufacturing new products benefit from a 10-year income tax exemption. Factories currently based on the coast, which relocate to rural areas or areas in South Lebanon, Nabatiyeh, or the Bekaa Valley benefit from a six-year income tax exemption. Parliament enacted a law in April 2014 to reduce income tax on industrial exports by 50 percent. More information can be found on IDAL’s website at http://investinlebanon.gov.lb/en/doing_business/investment_incentives.

The government reduces the dividend tax to five percent for companies that are listed on the BSE and which open 20 percent of their capital to Arab companies listed on their country’s stock exchange. It also reduces the dividend tax for foreign companies listed on the stock exchange of OECD countries and for companies that issue Global Depository Receipts (GDRs) amounting to a minimum value of 20 percent of their shares listed on the BSE.

Domestic and foreign investors may benefit from a 4.5 percent subsidy on interest for new loans granted after January 1, 2012, for amounts up to USD 10 million per project (with a ceiling of USD 40 million) provided by banks, financial institutions, and leasing companies to industrial, agricultural, tourism, and information technology establishments. The subsidy extends for a maximum of seven years, with a grace period of two years. This program has been extended until the end of 2018. Investors can also benefit from loan guarantees from Kafalat, a semi-private financial institution that helps SMEs to access subsidized commercial bank loans for projects in Lebanon, with a grace period of two years.

Domestic and foreign investors may also benefit from Central Bank (the Banque du Liban – BDL) initiatives to stimulate economic activity. Since 2013, the BdL has undertaken several stimulus packages worth approximately USD 7 billion to help commercial banks increase lending to the private sector at lower costs. Subsidized loans cover housing, investment in productive sectors, energy efficiency and renewable energy, and financing projects. In February 2017, the BdL authorized banks to increase their direct investment in technology start-ups up to four percent of equity, by providing banks with interest-free facilities over a maximum period of seven years. The Central Bank continues, in cooperation with the EU, to subsidize loans of USD 5 million or less to finance environmentally-friendly energy projects.

The government grants customs exemptions to industrial warehouses for export purposes. Companies located in the Beirut Port or the Tripoli Port Free Zone benefit from customs exemptions and are exempt from the value-added tax (VAT) for export purposes. They are also not required to register their employees with the NSSF, if they provide equal or better benefits.

IDAL provides investment incentives in a number of industrial sectors, including IT. IDAL is developing a draft program to facilitate IT programs abroad, an initiative yet to be approved by the cabinet. IDAL also supports the Agro Food sector and likewise has drafted an export program for Agro Food goods, which also requires cabinet approval.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Foreign-owned firms have the same investment opportunities as Lebanese firms. Lebanon has one duty-free zone at Beirut-Rafik Hariri International Airport and two free trade zones, the Beirut Port and the Tripoli Port. The WTO-compatible Customs Law issued by Decree No. 4461 fosters the development of free zones (Articles 242-261 cover free trade zones and Articles 262-266 cover duty free zones) and is available online at www.customs.gov.lb. The government enacted Law No. 18, dated September 5, 2008, that established a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Tripoli to attract investment in trade, industry, services, storage, and other services, as well as to grant investors tax exemptions and other privileges. USAID provided technical assistance to prepare a feasibility study for Tripoli SEZ (TSEZ) in 2011. On April 9, 2015, the Cabinet appointed a TSEZ Authority to regulate the zone, and efforts are actively underway to build and develop the zone. The Authority is working with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to create the regulatory framework and a one-stop-shop for businesses. The first phase consisted of mapping existing regulations, and the second phase entails the creation of an interim licensing regime to grant licenses for logistics activities. International experts are finalizing procedures for TSEZ operations. The Master Plan is expected to be completed by the end of June 2018. The Cabinet has approved USD 15 million to build the first phase of infrastructure and has tasked the Council for Development and Reconstruction to launch a tender which is expected to be ready in June 2018. The second phase of infrastructure, estimated at USD 25 million, is included in the CIP. On March 29, 2018, the Cabinet approved expanding the geographical area of the TSEZ to include an additional 75,000 square meters of the Rachid Karami Fair in Tripoli and to establish a knowledge-innovation hub. The Authority expects the TSEZ will begin logistics activities within twelve months.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government mandates local employment and the Ministry of Labor publishes annually a list of jobs restricted to Lebanese nationals. Foreign and local participation on the board of directors is contingent upon the firm's structure as defined in Lebanese commercial law. Foreign investors enjoy the same incentives as local investors.

Foreigners doing business in Lebanon through a company, factory, or office must hold work and residency permits. There are no discriminatory or excessively onerous visas, residence, or work permit requirements. Registration with a chamber of commerce is required to import and handle a limited number of products that are subject to control requirements for safety reasons. Products with such special import requirements constitute less than one percent of total tradable goods. Registration with a chamber of commerce is required to ensure that established facilities meet safety, handling, and storage requirements.

Lebanon does not follow any forced localization policy and does not require foreign IT providers to turn over source code or provide access to surveillance. Lebanon’s Central Bank requires all banks to keep data backups in Lebanon, while service providers are required to do the same.

5. Protection of Property RightsShare    

Real Property

The right to private ownership is respected in Lebanon. The concept of a mortgage exists and secured interests in property, both movable and real, are recognized and enforced. Such security interests must be recorded in the Commercial Registry and the Real Estate Registry. The Real Estate Law governs acquisition and disposition of all property rights by Lebanese nationals, while Law No. 296, dated April 3, 2001, governs real estate acquisition by non-Lebanese. Over ten percent of land, mostly in rural and remote areas, does not have clear title. The government is undertaking efforts to identify property owners and register land titles.

Intellectual Property Rights

While Lebanon is not a WTO member, its intellectual property rights (IPR) legislation is generally compliant with Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) standards. IPR enforcement is weak. The MoET's Intellectual Property Protection Office (IPPO) has led efforts to improve the IPR regime but suffers from limited financial and human resources, and insufficient political support. Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) and Customs play roles in enforcement. The understanding of IPR within the Lebanese judiciary has improved somewhat in recent years but gaps remain with regards to the negative economic impact that IPR violations have on the economy. The MoET’s new draft laws and amendments to existing laws aimed at improving the IPR environment, notably for industrial design, trademark, geographical indications, as well as amendments to the copyright law, await parliamentary approval.

Existing IPR laws cover copyright, patent, trademarks, and geographical elements. Lebanon's 1999 Copyright Law largely complies with WTO regulations and needs only minor amendments to become fully compatible. Copyright registration in Lebanon is not mandatory, and copyright protection is granted without the need for registration. Lebanon's Parliament ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) in February 2010. Ratification documents have not yet been deposited with WIPO, however, since this would also require amendments to the copyright law.

The MoET launched an online registration service in January 2013 for copyrights and trademarks on https://portal.economy.gov.lb/. This service simplified the registration process and over 80 percent of registrations of trademarks and copyrights now take place online. Due to the complexity of copyrights and patents, registration is still accepted in person at the MoET, and payment must also take place in person. The switch from a deposit system to an objection system for trademarks also remains stalled due to the need for parliamentary approval. However, the MoET noted that it implements the objection system in practice.

A modern TRIPS-compatible Patent Law, approved in 2000, provides general protection for semiconductor chip layout designs and plant varieties. Data protection and undisclosed information fall under Article 47 of the Patent Law, but current provisions for pharmaceutical registration are subject to interpretation. Generic manufacturers in Lebanon are not prohibited from using original data (e.g., data published on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website) to register competing products that are identical to original products. Decree No. 571 on the conditions of registering, importing, marketing, and classifying pharmaceuticals, which should have improved the process of drug registration and reduced the number of copycat drugs being registered, still leaves some room for interpretation. There are no current plans to amend the Patent Law. On patent registrations, the Lebanese legal regime does not require examination for novelty, utility, and innovation. Simple patent deposit is required at the MoET, where the application is examined only for conformity with general laws and ethics.

The ISF’s Cybercrime and IP Unit focuses its efforts on online counterfeiting and copyright violations, whereas the Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Unit investigates trademark violations associated with counterfeit physical goods. Lebanese Customs also plays a direct role in IPR enforcement by seizing counterfeits and an indirect role as part of its efforts to combat smuggling. The U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 annual review of intellectual property protection worldwide has retained Lebanon on its watch list since 2008 (https://ustr.gov/issue-areas/intellectual-property/special-301/2018-special-301-review). Given insecurity, political instability, and spillover from the Syrian conflict, the Lebanese government underscored its significant difficulties in enforcing IPR, but noted that, under such circumstances, the situation was relatively stable.

The IPPO acts upon the requests of rights holders or in an ex officio capacity. The ISF cannot act in an ex officio capacity and still requires a criminal complaint to be filed with the prosecutor’s office in order for it to take action. The sale and distribution of pirated, counterfeit, and copycat products continued across Lebanon, in commercial establishments and through street vendors. This included leather goods, apparel and luxury items, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), software, optical media, and pharmaceuticals.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

6. Financial SectorShare    

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

There are no restrictions on portfolio investment, and foreign investors may invest in Lebanese equities and fixed income certificates. Lebanon does not restrict the movement of capital into or out of the country for investment or other purposes. The government permits the free exchange of currencies, precious metals, and monetary instruments, both domestically and internationally. There are no restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.

Credit is allocated on market terms, and foreign investors may obtain credit facilities on the local market. The private sector may access overdrafts and discounted treasury bills in addition to a variety of credit instruments, such as housing, consumer, or personal loans, as well as corporate and loans for SMEs.

Government legislation allows the listing of tradable stocks on the Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE). By regulation, an investor should inform the BSE when her/his portfolio of shares in any listed company reaches ten percent and five percent in any listed bank. For an investor to acquire over 4.9 percent of any listed bank requires prior approval from the Central Bank. Currently, the BSE lists six commercial banks, 14 sovereign Eurobond issues (13 in U.S. Dollars and one in Euros), and four companies, including Solidere, one of the largest publicly held companies in the region. However, the BSE suffers from a lack of liquidity and low trading volumes in the absence of significant institutional and foreign investors, and had an annual trading volume of only 6.64 percent of market capitalization in 2017. Weak market turnover discourages investors from committing funds to the market and discourages issuers from seeking listings on the BSE. Traditional businesses held by commercially powerful families dominate most sectors. The government is trying to improve the transparency of such firms to help solidify an emerging capital market for company shares. The Cabinet approved in September 2017 a decree to establish the Beirut Stock Exchange SAL (BSE SAL) as a joint-stock company and replace the current BSE. Initially, the Lebanese state will own the capital of BSE SAL and will privatize the company within one year. To stimulate market activity, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) in Lebanon, analogous to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, issued several regulations to regulate disclosure policy of joint stocks and mutual funds as well as to encourage investment in start-up companies. More information can be found on: www.cma.gov.lb/. Lebanon hosts the headquarters of the Arab Stock Exchange Union.

Money and Banking System

The Lebanese banking sector covers the entire country with 1,086 operating commercial and investment banks’ branches as of December 2017. There are 4,604 residents per branch in Lebanon (assuming five million inhabitants), which compares favorably to regional and emerging markets. According to World Bank Development indicators, there are 1,046 depositors with commercial banks per 1,000 adults, 234 borrowers from commercial banks per 1,000 adults, and 39 ATMs per 100,000 adults. The use of cryptocurrencies is prohibited in Lebanon by the Central Bank.

The banking system enjoys high financial standing and boasts a capital adequacy ratio of 15.77 percent as of September2017 (higher than Basel III requirements), sound liquidity, and a foreign currency prime liquidity ratio exceeding 57 percent of foreign currency deposits. The total assets of Lebanon’s five largest commercial banks (including their subsidiaries) reached approximately USD 143 billion as of the end of 2017. Their total domestic assets reached approximately USD 119 billion as of the end of 2017 (or about 51.8 percent of total banking assets), according to central bank data. About 3.9 percent of total loans were estimated as non-performing by December 2017. Banks maintained approximately 60.9 percent of provisions against non-performing loans as of December 2017. The remaining 39.1 percent were covered by adequate collateral.

Based on the Central Bank’s Circular 331, Lebanon has developed a venture capital sector with several venture capital funds that are investing in the knowledge economy start-ups in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Central Bank imposes strict compliance with regulations on banks and financial institutions, and commercial banks maintain strong relations with U.S. correspondent banks. Foreign banks and branches need the Central Bank’s approval to establish operations in Lebanon. Moreover, any shareholder with more than five percent of a bank’s share capital must obtain prior approval from the Central Bank to acquire additional shares in that bank, and must inform the Central Bank when selling shares. In addition, any shareholder needs to obtain prior approval from the Central bank if he/she wants to become a board member. There are no restrictions in Lebanon on a foreigner or non-resident’s ability to open a bank account in local currency or foreign currencies. However, banks have stringent inquiry mechanisms to ensure compliance with international and domestic regulations. They implement Lebanon’s anti-money laundering and combating terrorism financing laws. Banks uphold Know-Your-Customer requirements and ask customers about the purpose of opening new accounts and about the sources of funds to be deposited. Lebanese banks are compliant with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Lebanon has adopted the OECD Common Reporting Standards starting January 1, 2018.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

There are no restrictions on the movement of capital, capital gains, remittances, dividends, or the inflow and outflow of funds. The conversion of foreign currencies or precious metals is unfettered. Foreign currencies are widely available and may be purchased from commercial banks or money dealers at market rates. Lebanon’s Central Bank, the Banque du Liban (BdL), posts a daily local currency-exchange rate on its website: http://www.bdl.gov.lb/. On average, BdL has the local currency at LBP 1,507.5 per U.S. Dollar since 1999. However, the U.S. Dollar continues to trade on the local economy at LBP 1,500. BdL is committed to maintaining a stable currency. Lebanon has one of the most heavily dollarized economies in the world, and businesses commonly accept payment (and return change) in a combination of LBP and U.S. Dollars.

Remittance Policies

There are no delays in remitting investment returns except for standard times needed to execute bank transfers.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Lebanon does not have a sovereign wealth fund. Lebanon’s Hydrocarbon Law states that proceeds generated from oil and gas exploration would be deposited in a Sovereign Wealth Fund. Creating the fund requires a separate law, which the government has yet to draft. Lebanon currently receives no proceeds from natural resources that could flow into a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned EnterprisesShare    

The Lebanese government maintains several state-owned monopolies. Ogero owns and operates fixed line telecommunications, while Alpha and Touch operate the mobile networks. Electricité du Liban (EdL) provides nation-wide electricity production and transmission, and four regional authorities provide water service. La Régie des Tabacs et Tombacs conducts tobacco procurement, manufacturing, and sales, and Casino du Liban operates as a mixed public-private enterprise. The Central Bank owns 99.23 percent of the flag air carrier Middle East Airlines, whose monopoly is scheduled to end in 2024. Other major state-owned enterprises or public institutions include the Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, and Tyre ports, the Rashid Karami International Fair (in northern Lebanon), the Sport City Center, and real estate development institution Elyssar. The government also owns shares in Intra Investment Co., a mixed public-private investment company that owns 96.62 percent of Finance Bank, a Lebanese commercial bank.

There is no uniform definition of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), and each has separate internal by-laws. Decree 4517 (dated 1972) establishes two types of public institutions, one administrative category that involves public enterprises such as the Lebanese University, and a second that holds commercial institutions such as EdL and La Régie. The Ministry of Finance maintains an unpublished list of SOEs and public institutions. SOEs and public institutions may purchase or supply goods or services from the private sector or foreign firms. Their procurement process is governed by separate regulations but under the same terms and conditions as public procurement. SOEs and public institutions benefit from certain tax exemptions.

The electricity monopoly restricts production to EdL, but numerous private investors operate unregulated generators across the country and sell electricity to citizens at significantly higher rates during the country’s frequent power cuts. EdL awarded several concessions to privately-owned companies for power distribution in specific regions, and these companies are interested in meeting customer demand. Independent Power Producers (IPP) may provide municipalities with 10 MW of electricity without receiving a direct concession from EdL. In April 2014, Parliament granted the Cabinet the authority through 2018 to license private companies to generate electricity. Since 2012, EdL contracted three private companies to manage bill collection, maintenance, and power distribution. Two private operators also hold government contracts to manage the country’s two cellular companies.

Lebanon’s SOEs report to shareholders, whereas public institutions are subject to oversight by the concerned ministries as well as by the Ministry of Finance. Public institutions require the approval of concerned ministries for major business decisions. SOEs may independently prepare their budgets, which must be approved only by their board of directors. The SOEs and public institutions are required by law to publish an annual report, submit their books for independent audits, and transmit their books to the Court of Audit.

The Lebanese Government currently has no plans to privatize SOEs or public institutions. The Governor of the Central Bank plans to list 25 percent of Middle East Airlines (which is 99.23 percent owned by the Central Bank) on the BSE. The Governor is waiting for the electronic trading platform at the BSE to be ready, and he wants to secure political consensus.

SOEs and public institutions have independent boards staffed primarily by politically-affiliated individuals, appointed by the cabinet for public institutions, and by shareholders for SOEs. These boards always include a cabinet-appointed Government Commissioner who reports to the concerned ministries. SOEs do not currently adhere to the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) Corporate Governance Guidelines.

Privatization Program

Lebanon enacted laws for the privatization of the telecom sector (Law 431) and the electricity sector (Law 462) enacted in 2002. However, political dysfunction has since stalled their implementation.

Parliament passed a two-year law authorizing the Cabinet to issue Independent Power Producers (IPP) licenses to investors in April 2014. It later amended the law to extend its application through April 2018. The Ministry of Energy and Water launched tenders in March 2017 for solar power plants under the IPP law and has issued three wind power plants licenses under IPP. Any new project would, in principle, be solicited under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Law.

The High Council for Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships (HCP) Enactment of PPP legislation in September 2017 potentially has opened opportunities for local and international private sector infrastructure investment in Lebanon, and published on the HCP website http://hcp.gov.lb.

The Capital Markets Law calls for the corporatization and subsequent privatization of the Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE) within a two-year period from the date that the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) is appointed. The Cabinet appointed the CMA in June 2012, and in September 2017 issued a decree to corporatize the BSE.

8. Responsible Business ConductShare    

Lebanese firms are aware of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and responsible business conduct (RBC), including on environmental, social, and governance issues. This is true for the banking sector as well as companies in industry, which are slowly creating sustainable supply chains or pursuing social initiatives to appeal to consumers. The Lebanese Standards Institution (LIBNOR), part of the Ministry of Industry, works with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to lead efforts an expansion of the use of the ISO 26000 standard on Social Responsibility (SR) in Lebanon, one of the eight pilot countries in the Middle East. However, laws related to human and labor rights, consumer protection, and environment protections are unevenly enforced.

The Central Bank of Lebanon works closely with banks to direct their financial resources towards projects that improve society and the environment. This includes issuing circulars to create favorable environmental and educational loans, encourage entrepreneurship through private equity investments, and facilitating improved governance through customer protection. In 2015, the banking sector started to implement Central Bank Circular No. 134, requiring banks to apply measures to ensure transparent and fair dealings with their customers, a reflection of the CSR principles of corporate governance and consumer protection. The Central Bank also established the Institute for Finance and Governance (IFG). Lebanese banks attempt to align their business plans and CSR policy with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Several banks issue their own annual CSR reports.

The government does not require or encourage private companies to establish internal codes of conduct. However, several companies have adopted a Code of Ethics and corporate governance codes, including the business association ‘Rassemblement de Dirigeants et Chefs d’Entreprises Libanais’ (RDCL, or the Group of Lebanese Business Owners) Code of Business Ethics, and the Lebanese Code of Corporate Governance (CG), which is under the auspices of the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA). However, these codes are strictly voluntary and the government provides no incentives or enforcement for their adoption. In October 2016, the Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB) launched the Women on Board initiative, aiming to have 30 percent women on the board of banks and private sector by 2025. The RDCL, Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut (Lebanon), and 21 other private companies signed this pledge.

9. CorruptionShare    

U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI, including in government procurement, award of contracts, dispute resolution, customs and taxation. Corruption is reportedly more pervasive in government contracts (primarily in procurement and public works), taxation, and real estate registration, than in private sector transactions. The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption but it is not implemented effectively. For instance, Lebanon does not effectively enforce the Illicit Wealth Law and the Penal Code. The Illicit Wealth Law applies to all state employees, government and senior officials, and municipality members and extends to family members. The law does not extend to political parties. The legislation has articles to counter conflict-of interest in awarding contracts and government procurement, but they are not enforced. In December 2016, the Lebanese government established a State Minister to Fight Corruption, but this official has no budget and no staff to carry out reforms.

Nevertheless, the Ministries of Public Health (MoPH) and the Ministry of Economy and Trade (MoET) continued their anti-corruption campaigns that began in 2014. The MoPH released a mobile application and a hotline (1214) allowing citizens to report fraudulent actions to the ministry. In 2017, the MoPH also launched a new One-Stop Shop service aiming at improving service delivery and transparency through e-government solutions, such as submitting and tracking health service applications electronically. The MoET launched the Consumer Protection Lebanon mobile application in 2014, adding to the already established consumer protection hotline (1739). The application enhances communication between the ministry and local consumers. It allows users to send and follow complaints and provide them with prompt notifications about ministry decisions and other MoET news.

Lebanon ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention in April 2009. Lebanon is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

As for civil society, the LTA established the Lebanon Anti-Bribery Network (LABN) in 2008 in partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). It re-launched LABN in 2013, for the specific purpose of combating bribery in the country. The LTA also established the Lebanese Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (LALAC) to inform citizens of their rights and to encourage victims and witnesses to take action against cases of corruption. LALAC operates a hotline for victims and witnesses to report cases of corruption and receive free legal advice and assistance with their case. The program is currently funded by Transparency International (TI), the Lebanese Renaissance Foundation. LTA also conducted several workshops targeting public servants, journalists and civil society groups promoting access to information right in Lebanon. Moreover, LTA organized a conference on the mechanisms to promote accountability and transparency within the PPPs.

Local NGO Sakker el Dekkene was established in 2013 to raise awareness against corruption though its innovative and interactive advertisement campaigns. It also encourages citizens to report and talk about their own experiences with corruption. Additional information may be found at https://www.sakkera.com.

Resources to Report Corruption

Lebanese Transparency Association
Sami El Solh Avenue, Kalot Bldg. 3rd Floor
Badaro, Beirut
P.O. Box 50-552, Lebanon
Tel/Fax: +961-1-388113/4/5
Email: info@transparency-lebanon.org

10. Political and Security EnvironmentShare    

Hizballah continued fighting in Syria on behalf of the Syrian regime, while some Lebanese Sunni individuals reportedly lent support to the Syrian opposition. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has stepped up its fight against ISIS and other extremist elements over the past year. It launched an offensive targeting ISIS militants along the northeastern border that resulted in the expulsion of the last remaining ISIS militants from there. The operation was the largest and most successful military operation by the LAF in over a decade.

The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. Embassy personnel assigned to Beirut sufficiently serious enough to require all official personnel to live and work under security restrictions. These limitations occasionally prevent the movement of U.S. Embassy officials and the provision of consular services in certain areas of the country. U.S. citizen visitors are encouraged to contact the Embassy’s Consular Section for the most recent safety and security information concerning travel to Lebanon. More information may be found at https://lb.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services.

Lebanon experienced a stable political landscape for most of 2017. However, on November 4, in an unexpected move, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation while in Saudi Arabia. He later rescinded his resignation. Since that time, financial markets have stabilized. Soon thereafter, the country drew major international attention as evidenced by three major international donor conferences in support Lebanon's stability, security, and long-term economic development.

Lebanon continues to host more refuges per capita than any other country in the world. By the end of 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had registered more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The refugee presence led to increased social tensions and competition for low-skill jobs, and strained resources and services

11. Labor Policies and PracticesShare    

The 1946 Labor Law provides for written and oral contracts and specifies a maximum workweek of 48 hours (with several exceptions, notably agricultural and domestic workers, whom are not covered under the Labor Law). The legal minimum wage was raised in 2012 to 675,000 LBP (USD 450) per month. Lebanon is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and signatory to all of its fundamental conventions except on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize. The government mandates local employment and the Ministry of Labor issues an annual list of jobs restricted to Lebanese. Local unskilled labor is in short supply. Arab (mainly Syrians, Egyptians, and Palestinian), Asian, Indian, and African laborers are hired to work in construction, agriculture, industry, and households.

The law provides for the right of private sector workers to form and join trade unions, strike, and bargain collectively, although the law places a number of restrictions on these rights. It provides protection against anti-union discrimination but enforcement is weak and anecdotal evidence suggests anti-union discrimination was widespread. Lebanon has a government-recognized General Labor Confederation (CGTL), whose membership is limited exclusively to Lebanese workers. The CGTL’s activities are mainly limited to demanding cost-of-living increases and other social benefits for workers. The general labor-management relationship remains difficult and the Labor Law is not always properly enforced. Strikes and demonstrations are not uncommon, and are usually aimed at pressuring the government for better employment conditions. However, this has never posed a major risk to investment. The law requires businesses to adhere to safety standards, but enforcement is weak.

Lebanon’s working population (aged 15 and above) totals 1.2 million, including foreign residents but excluding the seasonal work force, according to the Central Administration of Statistics’ 2011 Labor Market in Lebanon report. The IMF estimates the population at 4.5 million in 2017. The World Bank estimates Lebanese unemployment will have doubled to 20 percent between 2012 and 2014, in large part due to the Syria crisis. Lebanese Government estimated the unemployment rate at over 30 percent in 2017. The Minister of Economy and Trade publicly noted that there was competition between Lebanese and Syrian labor for low to high skilled jobs and also at the level of micro to small enterprises. There was widespread anecdotal evidence of arbitrary dismissals of Lebanese, being replaced by non-Lebanese, across economic and productive sectors. This has mainly been in the form of Syrian refugees allegedly replacing Lebanese in some sectors. However, there were no official statistics to quantify the scale of these dismissals.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance ProgramsShare    

In 1981, Lebanon and the United States signed an Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) agreement, which become operational in 1996. OPIC is currently active in Lebanon in insurance, financing, and investment. Since 2007, OPIC has worked with Citibank on a program that offers loans to the private sector (SMEs, retail, and housing) through selected Lebanese commercial banks. To date, OPIC has provided over USD 300 million in credit line guarantees.

The Lebanese government’s National Investments Guarantee Corporation (NIGC) continues to insure new investments against political risks, riots, losses due to non-convertibility of currencies, and transfer of profits. Lebanon has been a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), part of the World Bank, since 1994.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment StatisticsShare    

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

 

Host Country Statistical Source*

USG or International Statistical Source

USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

Economic Data

Year

Amount

Year

Amount

 

Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)

2015

USD 49.5B

2017

USD 53.4B

IMF
www.imf.org

Foreign Direct Investment

Host Country Statistical Source**

USG or International Statistical Source

USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)

2014

USD 21.1

2016

USD 294 million

BEA

Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)

2014

USD 0

2016

USD -13

BEA

Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP

N/A

N/A

2016

USD 61.019 billion (117.4% of GDP)

UNCTAD

* The Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics (CAS).
** The BDL compiles FDI statistics without geographical breakdown. Accordingly, the inward/outward FDI positions from/to US are considered as partial figures and resulting from the Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) addressed to banking, financial, insurance, and real estate sectors. Data for 2015 and 2016 are in process.


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data

From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)

Inward Direct Investment

Outward Direct Investment

Total Inward

1,933

100%

Total Outward

3,553

100%

Luxembourg

631

32.6%

Turkey

707

19.9%

Libya

176

9.1%

France

584

16.4%

France

176

9.1%

Egypt

523

14.7%

United Arab Emirates

158

8.2%

Jordan

276

7.8%

US Virgin Islands

115

6%

Australia

163

4.6%

"0" reflects amounts rounded to +/- $500,000.

Source: BdL (statistical data sources include International Transactions Reporting System (public and private sectors) and Ministry of Finance Land Registry Directorate, IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey, December 2014.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets

Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)

Total

Equity Securities

Total Debt Securities


All Countries


4,651


100%


All Countries

2,422


100%

All Countries

2,229


100%

United States

1,646

35.4%

United States

1,059

43.7%

United States

588

26.4%

United Kingdom

540

11.6%

Luxembourg

241

10.0%

United Kingdom

464

20.8%

France

411

8.8%

Bahrain

235

9.7%

France

214

9.6%

Luxembourg

275

5.9%

France

196

8.1%

United Arab Emirates

110

5.0%

Bahrain

247

5.3%

Jordan

122

5.0%

Cayman Islands

108

4.8%

Source: BdL; IMF Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey, June 2017

14. Contact for More InformationShare    

U.S. Embassy in Lebanon
Economic Section
Aoukar, P.O. Box 70-840, Antelias, Lebanon
Tel: +961- 4-542600
Email: Beirutembassyinvestment@state.gov