Some of the key factors for making positive changes are staying on the technological edge, improving foreign investment, reviving tourism, adding IT lessons to school curriculum and integrating women more into the professional workforce
BEIRUT: At present much about the Lebanese economy seems stalled and slow to recover, but looking ahead to 2025, the shape of the economy and workforce might offer a much more optimistic face.
Some of the key factors for making positive changes are staying on the technological edge, improving foreign investment, reviving tourism, adding IT lessons to school curriculums and integrating women more into the professional workforce.
Examining this was Tuesday’s “Rethinking Lebanon 2025” which gathered together a number of government figures, banking officials, economists and other experts at the Hilton Metropolitan Hotel for a day-long seminar.
“The goal of this conference is to identify the most significant challenges to the Lebanese economy and society in the upcoming years. It also seeks to promote collaboration among the public, private and education sectors in order to reach a common vision of Lebanon,” said Jihad El Hokayem, CEO of JHC financial consultancy and the key organizer of the event.
“For today’s forum — while we are touching on many topics — there will be an emphasis on the need for increasing a working E-Government and the need for increases E-Commerce to help find new markets for Lebanese products,” Hokayem told Annahar. “And we have purposely added more women to the speaker roster to balance viewpoints a bit and highlight the point that integrating more women into the local workforce, would result in a marked economic amplifier effect. It would increase the capacity of the economy.”
On the education front, El Hokayem noted that in order to make faster economic and societal progress by 2025, the education system needs to integrate IT related education into the teaching curriculum.
Lastly, he highlighted for Annahar that the anemic state of Lebanese politics is greatly attributable to the fact that “no youth are involved in the political process.” El Hokayem said that 28 percent of voters are aged 30 and below, noting that as of 2017, youth under 29 had never the opportunity to participate in legislative elections, which last took place in 2008. Since then, Lebanon’s parliament has twice extended its tenure.
Main sections of the day’s program encompassed: Economic, Monetary and Social Challenges; Private & Public Sectors Challenges and Opportunities; Redesigning Education; and Lebanon at the Global Level.
Speakers at the event included: Ghassan Hasbany, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health; Mohamad Baasiri, Third Vice Governor, Banque du Liban; Princess Hayat Arslan, President of the Society of Lebanon the Giver; Dan Azzi, former CEO of Standard Chartered Bank; Charbel Nahas, former Minister of Telecommunications; Wissam Chbat, President of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration; Elie Yachoui, economist, professor, and former Dean of NDU; Mohammad Fheili, AGVM, Jamal Bank; Vera Khoury Lacoeuilhe, the official candidate of Lebanon for the position of Director General of UNESCO.
Also featured were: Peter Kelly, professor, Aalto University, Finland; Dr. Camille Nassar, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Balamad; Mouchir Aoun, Professor of Philosophy at Lebanese University; Jorge G. Kadri, Ambassador of Brazil to Lebanon; and Hind Al Owais, deputy executive director for the office of UN Women .
Economist Elie Yachoui, noted during his remarks the ongoing imbalance of Lebanese government spending, telling the audience of around 600, “In the old days the golden rule was to only spend as much as you have….Then governments changed, saying to themselves ‘why not spend on a deficit’.” He added, “In the case of Lebanon this deficit spending did not turn into economic and national growth, but instead went into the pockets of the political class. “
Yachoui further added “Since the 1990s we have had only modest government projects that could have been financed without a deficit. We should not accept sporadic waste or the sporadic levying of taxes” in reference to the recent parliamentary action raising taxes that was met with large street protest, and widespread skepticism.
Foremost on many speakers’ minds was the necessity of keeping up to speed technologically and otherwise with the rest of the world.
Mohammad Fheili, AGM Jamal Bank, told the audience “The most successful businesses are going much further by re‐engineering their organizations towards new ways of meeting customer demands and opening up new market opportunities.”
He questioned the listeners rhetorically, “So, is your business up to speed? Does your mission embrace the values of the post‐crisis world? Do your organizational capabilities reflect the new economics of your business?”
This same theme was echoed by Ghassan Hasbany, deputy PM and Health Minister.
He noted that, “looking forward to the future, Lebanon requires us to look forward to the world’s new industrial and economic revolution, known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Hasbany called for stimulating local initiative and creativity by opening up international markets to Lebanese innovators to market their services and IT products.
With hard work, the minister said, “We can develop our country by 2025, as a competitive and civilized Lebanon.”