1,200 people at
Business Opportunities Conference
Two-day event had 16 workshops and 70 speakers
Over 1,200 people participated over two days the ‘Business Opportunities in Lebanon’, on Feb 19-20. Themed ‘Economic sustainability during crisis’, The event was held at the Phoenicia Hotel. The event is the largest business gathering in the country. The inaugural session was attended by more than 600 participants, including former Ministers Adnan Al Kassar, Jihad Azour, Rayya El Hassan, Vrej Sabounjian, as well as officials, the private sector, and academics.
Four success stories under duress were shared during the inaugural session: Elias Chabtini (Shawarmanji) opened nine outlets locally and more than 15 in the Gulf, within 18 months of launching, Ziad Abi Chaker, an environmental engineer, is transforming garbage into fertilizes, and recycling other items such as plastics, Bassam Jalgha, a musician, has invented a ‘Roadie’ instrument stringer tuner, Ziad El Sayegh, CEO of the Civic Influence Hub, an NGO, detailed the ‘Blue Gold’ project, launched a month ago, an initiative to boost the National Water Strategy.
A discussion followed with four prominent speakers, about the way to foster resilience in times of crisis.
“Since nine years the country has proved resilient but the government should focus now on political and economic stability in order to refinance its dues,” said Azour. According to him, the new government must also solve the issue of the new salary scale. A workshop should be done by the Ministry of Economy to support the private sector.
Sabounjian said that industrialists can lower operational costs by creating new ideas, instead of continuously asking for public support. He said that they are benefiting from many advantages in the local market: “We only pay ten percent income tax, while this percentage goes up to 65 percent in Europe.” He nevertheless acknowledges that some Arab countries are not abiding by pan-Arab agreement regulations, which is harming local producers.
Farid Belhaj, Director of the World Bank office in the Middle East said that “the World Bank has prepared a ‘trust fund’ as well as three other projects for the country, but it still needs approval from the local government.”
Makram Sader, Secretary General of the Association of Banks, was optimistic, in spite of the frustrating environment. “Due to the banks’ good management and sustained profits, the banking sector is still on the right track,” he said. The banking sector has been exporting its services abroad for the past 15 years, and today, “we have 240 bank branches in 92 cities, around the world,” he said.
Five parallel themes dedicated to real estate, e-marketing, branding, finance, and green business were conducted over the course of the conference.
Reported by Joelle Nassar
Date Posted: Feb 21, 2014