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Disregard by politicians of sound economic principles fuel migration and the rise of unemployment in Lebanon


As Safir newspaper published yesterday an article by Moussa Freiji, an expert in agricultural economy on the present economic policies in Lebanon.  The author criticized the current economic paradigms that have been upheld by consecutive governments.  One of such faulty principles is the assumption that opening and deregulating markets will encourage investment thus the need for Lebanon to join WTO so as to affect its current export levels. Furthermore, Lebanese politicians have repeatedly stressed that by joining the Arab common market, Lebanon is likely to have market access to more than 350 million people in the Arab region.  Freiji also criticized the common held belief that migration is a blessing since it results the increase of remittances which in turn contribute to offsetting the trade deficit as well as the widely held myth that Lebanon is essentially a service and tourist country where the costs of production are high and thus production is not viable and can easily be sacrificed.
Freiji highlights the dire realities that have resulted from following such policies noting the current regression in tourism as well as in a number of industries, such as clothes, shoes, medicines and handicrafts.  He also was critical of the role of IDAL which was supposed to give a boost to external marketing but which became a mere office to monitor and control subsidized agricultural exports.  Most agricultural production have also been negatively affected and now only survive those agricultural sectors enjoying some level of custom protection and those receiving direct financial subsidies from the state such as wheat and sugar beet production.  Meanwhile and also according to the author, 75% of university and technical schools graduates have permanently migrated to Arab and other countries because of the dearth of employment opportunities in Lebanon.
Freiji adds that the solution resides in adopting a broad policy based on job creation through investment in productive projects whilst imposing efficient customs protection, providing investment opportunities for migrant Lebanese to encourage them to return, protecting domestic products, encouraging exports and specific policies that aim at protecting local consumption, national production and intellectual property.  The author also noted that none of the ministerial statements issued since 1990 included any clear and realistic reference as to how the dire economic situation can be addressed save by using some vague and vacuous words.  However, various governments have defended protection policies that have favored non-productive sectors thus further fuelling unemployment and migration.
Source: Al-Safir 14 January 2014

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