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Closure of non-licensed Syrian businesses amidst divergent reactions from the Lebanese business community


Al Akhbar newspaper published a report on the non-licensed Syrian owned shops and businesses and which are to being closed with the support of the internal security forces as per the general plan put in place by the Ministry of Economy and Trade.  The first phase of this plan was implemented in the Bekaa during the month of September 2013 after giving business owners a grace period of two months to settle their situation before closure.  Preparations are now going ahead to implement the plan in Beirut where a warning was issued just a few days ago to Syrian business owners so that they settle their situation.  The implementation of the plan will then move to Mount Lebanon, North Lebanon and South Lebanon.  The report also shares the reactions of Lebanese business holders many of which reflected their usual negative attitude vis-à-vis Syrian nationals and strong concerns about the competition created by these new businesses especially at the level of small shops, popular restaurants and street vending.
The report refers to the field study carried out by the Ministry of Economy and Trade and which indicates that 1196 Syrian owned businesses were established with no licenses over the past two years.  377 of these located in the Beqaa were closed whilst 819 business continue to operate, one way or the other, in various commercial and tourism services.  The acting Director-General of Economy Fouad Fleifel told Al Akhbar that the model of free economy in Lebanon allows any foreign investor to work freely and nobody can be forbidden from undertaking any economic activity except in the areas restricted by the Ministry of Labor and where investors have to abide by labor laws. The Zahleh Merchant's Association president, Elie Chalhoub, for his part, points out to a different  reality as he notes that competition is cut throat and illegal as, according to Chalhoub, Syrian investors bring cheaper raw material from Syrian addition to cheap Syrian labor and do not pay taxes as well as municipality fees and electricity costs.  However, he acknowledged that many Lebanese businesses who complain about competition actually do not declare their profits to the Ministry of Finance, resort to Syrian labor and also bring cheap raw material illegally even though this is more available for Syrian investors.
The situation somewhat seems different for Beirut and Mount Lebanon which account for 28.8% of the total of Syrian owned businesses which are concentrated in Borj Hammoud, Nabaa, Tarik Jadideh and Mazraa, and where it is by large welcomed differently than in the Beqaa.  According to, The Barbour Merchant's Association president, Rachid Kebbe Syrian capital should be most welcome in Lebanon as they contribute to the local economy.  Similar reactions are noted in South Lebanon and in Nabatieh which host 8.1% of Syrian owned businesses.  According to The President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Saida, nobody should stand against these businesses as they contribute to the economy and attract investments.  However and on the other side, business owners in Akkaar tend to share the views of their fellows in the Bekaa and complain about competition with Syrian owned businesses, while claiming that Syrian businesses are in an advantageous position since they receive international donations and benefit from conditions of production that are not suitable for people from Akkar.  It is to be noted that North Lebanon hosts 8.9% of the total Syrian owned businesses that are primarily located in Akkar and Tripoli and to a lesser extent in Zghorta and Batroun.
Source: Al-Akhbar 7 November 2013
For more information about the context of non-licensed Syrian businesses in Lebanon, please refer to previous news published on the WEEPortal:

"Closing of non-registered Syrian commerce in the Bekaa", on 2/9/2013
"Launch of the campaign to regularize Syrian businesses in the Bekaa and testimonials of Syrians suffering from oppression in Lebanon", on 31/7/2013

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