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Lebanon Opportunities

Lebanon Opportunities March 2017

Lebanon Opportunities is a quarterly business magazine that covers: Finance, Real estate, Economy, and Local business. Lebanon Opportunities has tens of thousands of readers in Lebanon and across the globe. It is the prime local business magazine in Lebanon in terms of readership, advertising, and name-awareness. Lebanon Opportunities is written to a target of small business owners, entrepreneurs and middle management, as well as to Lebanese living abroad. It aims at bringing complex business issues in a simple manner understandable by readers who are not experts and whose English language is not the mother tongue.

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3 min
combat corruption? you are kidding!

by the editor-in-chief It is budget time again. Like every year, the government proposes a slew of tax increases together with new concoctions. The parties affected lobby heavily against it. In the past decade, it was all rhetoric, as the government, or Parliament, unable to divide the budget spoils in a way that pleases all parties, have consequently been unable to get a budget law promulgated. This year, all players seem determined to have a budget approved, as they have become too hungry for a piece of the pie, or even some of its crumbs. What we have so far in the proposed budget – and in the indiscriminate opposition to it – is a lack of economic vision, long-term impact assessments on various sectors, and rationality. It seems that all…

1 min
bits & bytes

SOUND BYTES We are on our way to prosperity. Everything will be renewed with the political entente on reconstruction President Michel Aoun There will be a package of incentives included in the budget to motivate the private sector Prime Minister Saad Hariri Is MEA in service of Lebanon, or the other way around? Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs We reject any increases in taxes on the poor and the middle classes Mohamed Kabbara, Minister of Labor We support stopping wasting public funds and there is no need to increase taxes Ayman Choucair, Minister of State for Human Rights We will not support increasing VAT. Let’s focus on waste and corruption Ali Kanso, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs We reject any new taxes or fees affecting poor families Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah There is…

9 min
in good company

THIRD MALL AND MORE CARREFOUR BY MAJID AL FUTTAIM Out of the $2 billion earmarked for projects in Lebanon since 2009, Majid al Futtaim has still to invest $1.1 billion. New investments will include a new mall. Alain Bejjani, CEO of the group, said: “The third mall will be in the immediate suburbs of Beirut.” Majid Al Futtaim already operates Beirut City Centre, a mall in Hazmieh, with another planned for Waterfront City in Dbayeh. Majid Al Futtaim is also the developer of Waterfront City, Carrefour, VOX cinemas, and Magic Planet. The company will launch this year new phases at Waterfront City. It will also finalize the entitlement process for the Waterfront City mall and then set a date for its delivery. The Emirati company is also expanding their Carrefour business.…

2 min
money & banking

LEBANON SEED FUND LAUNCHED BY FLAT6LABS Flat6Labs Beirut announced the launch of Lebanon Seed Fund (LSF), a $20 million early stage fund aimed at supporting 100 local startups over the next five years. Startups taking part in the seed stage program will receive $30,000-$50,000 investments. They will go through a 16-week mentorship program. Early stage startups will receive $100,000 to $500,000, as well as access to Flat6Labs Beirut’s resources and operational guidance to scale. The program is in partnership with ArabNet, and has the support of Central Bank’s (BDL) Circular 331. Flat6Labs is a Cairo-based accelerator, which also has offices in Abu-Dhabi and Jeddah. Flat6Labs Beirut, through the LSF, will seed and grow local startup companies working in innovation-based and knowledge- driven industries. These industries will mainly include information and communications…

8 min
official business

TAX COLLECTION HALF ITS ECONOMIC POTENTIAL Tax collection is weak. It has been driving a drop in public revenues since 2010, and remains below the regional average, according to the International Monetary Fund’s recent report, ‘Article IV consultation for Lebanon’. It said that tax collection is only 50 percent of estimated capacity. A weakness in electronic tax declaration system and staff numbers, among others, was cited as reasons behind the deficiency in total tax revenues. “Tax administration increased by 120 staff members in 2016, but the actual needs are estimated to be five times higher,” the IMF said. The country’s ‘tax effort’ is lower than that in similar Middle East and Central Asian countries. The tax effort is the ratio of actual tax revenues to potential capacity, which is the maximum…

6 min
matters of fact

PUBLIC DEBT: $75 BILLION! Gross public debt reached $74.9 billion at the end of 2016, a 6.4 percent increase on the previous year. It had grown 5.7 percent in 2015. Net public debt reached $65.4 billion recording 6.2 percent increase compared to 2015. Damianos Kattar, Former Minister of Finance, said: “The absence of a public budget has contributed to excesses in expenditures.” The primary surplus (Revenues minus expenditures excluding debt servicing) was $1.2 billion, well below the $4.4 billion needed to meet interest payments. Gross debt in the lira reached LL70,528 billion ($46.8 billion) growing by a yearly eight percent and representing 62.5 percent of total debt. Gross debt in foreign currencies, mainly the U.S. dollar, increased 3.7 percent to $28.1 billion. Kattar said: “The increase in the share of local…