Economic Trends

Lebanon has legislation to provide intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. However, enforcement is considered to be weak. The Lebanese police established a new cyber-crime and anti-piracy unit. The Brand Protection Group and the Ministry of Economy launched Lebanon’s first large-scale national awareness campaign on counterfeit products. A new IPR advocacy group was launched and the Lebanese judiciary issued two positive decisions on long-pending IPR cases.

Market Opportunities
There are opportunities for attracting foreign investors in infrastructure projects. The Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) is responsible for tendering and procuring funding for government physical infrastructure projects, including electricity, telecommunications, roads and public transport, social infrastructure including education, public health, social and economic development, land use and environment, basic services including water supply, wastewater and solid waste management, and productive sectors including agriculture, irrigation, ports, airports, tourism, and government buildings. According to the latest CDR progress report issued in September 2007, there are 650 projects in progress for a value of $2.376 billion. Public infrastructure opportunities mainly lie in roads and highways, ports, electricity, education, solid waste, wastewater and water supply. As of end 2006, the CDR had a total of $1.8 billion in loans and protocols ratified by the Lebanese parliament but not yet disbursed. As of end September 2007, the CDR had a total of $842 million in loans awaiting parliament's approval. In addition, the CDR has nearly $600 million in grants mainly related to pledges prior to Paris III and earmarked for public investments for post-July 2006 war reconstruction. In addition, donors pledged $2.7 billion in project financing at the Paris III conference. The CDR has a limited absorptive capacity and targets to spend around $750 million annually.

Best prospect sectors
Information and Communication Technology (ICT):
Lebanon has the fundamental building blocks needed to become a regional center for technology: a highly-educated and multilingual workforce, a strong private sector, world-class advertising firms, and multi-lingual media content providers and web portals. In the last quarter of 2007, the government moved forward towards privatizing the telecommunications sector.  The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) made available an online data-room for potential bidders for the country's GSM network. Moreover, the Government of Lebanon has plans to regulate and upgrade its outdated and costly ICT infrastructure. These plans, which are expected to take place in the near future, will offer significant opportunities to foreign investors.

Pharmaceuticals: Lebanon is the leading importer of pharmaceutical drugs in the Levant region and has over 50 pharmaceutical importing firms. The pharmaceutical market generates around $400 million every year in retail sales. Imports constitute between 92 and 95 percent of total consumption.

Insurance: The Lebanese insurance market has always been open and liberal. The Lebanese government never owned insurers, and private companies did not have to compete with state entities or worry about government monopolies. This characteristic has helped the sector to respond to market forces and avoid the distortions associated with state ownership of insurers. Insurers predict that a need for all kinds of policies, especially those of health and life, will increase. Moreover, due to a large number of reconstruction projects that are already underway, policies covering construction work are also in great demand.