Economic Bodies convened on September 12 to call for the appointment of a new President and warned of an imminent economic collapse should this void continue.
Adnan Kassar, Chairman of the Economic Associations, said: “We find ourselves again, having to raise our voices high against the current political stagnation.” Most of the productive sectors, mainly tourism and trade, have been facing a negative output for two years in a row, despite the formation of Prime Minister Tamam Salam’s Cabinet,” he said.
Kassar held political leaders responsible for the deterioration of the economy, calling on Parliament to vote for a new President: “It is time for to have an elected President, who will regenerate spirit in the ailing country and contribute to activating constitutional institutions.”
He asked politicians to put their disputes aside and unite for the sake of saving the economy.
The Chairman of the Association of Industrialists, Fadi Gemayel said: “Lost economic opportunities since 2011 till the end of the year have touched on $13 billion. This is almost one third of the GDP.” Projects related to infrastructure and oil and gas have all been suspended, opportunities that could have created jobs for tens of thousands of locals.
He said: “It is our duty to raise our voices and come up with solutions to the current situation.” “As industrialists, we have persevered and struggled to stay in our hometowns. We have always rebuilt our factories and ventured into new opportunities against the odds,” said Gemayel.
The Chairman of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture, Mohammad Choucair, said: “In the absence of serious proposals to politically and economically salvage the country and in light of security instability, it is obvious that we are heading towards mayhem and collapse at a fast pace.”
“If the economy collapses and productive institutions are shut down, no security measure would protect stability from social revolt,” he said. Politicization and stagnation in making decisions is the reason behind the economy’s malady, said Choucair.
He addressed the effects of the presence of Syrian refugees and their influence on local labor: “The three-year long suffering of the Syrian people has turned into a persistent exhaustion of all local economic sectors.”
“We have a moral duty to help our Syrian brethren as long as it does not turn into an economic burden. It is unacceptable that Syrian factories move their businesses to the market and threaten local factories with bankruptcy,” Choucair said. The labor market is closed to the Lebanese workforce in favor of Syrian refugees.
He said that small to medium enterprises that create jobs and support the economy are also being threatened by illegal Syrian competition.
Francois Bassil, Chairman of the Association of Banks (ABL), said that financial stability and economic growth must be achieved in order to preserve civil peace. “The deterioration of constitutional weakness represented by the presidential void, impaired legislation, and feeble executive authority, would lead to economic recession, which would negatively reflect on the performance of the banking sector.” Bassil said the banking sector is the actual reflection of the economic health of the country.
Chairman of the Beirut Traders Association (BTA) Nicolas Chammas said: “The absence of growth, the loss of seasons, the deterioration of the purchasing power, the weakening public finance, and the Syrian invasion of local markets are the reasons for a dwindling economy.”
“This requires an intervention by the Economic Bodies, who represent the guardians of the economy,” he said.
Chammas said that many productive sectors are on the brink of bankruptcy. “Refugees have become permanent residents and residents are turning into immigrants due to the failing political class.”