Growing pains

As they campaign for re-election, our politicians are trying to capitalize on the economic mess we’re in, which they created. We need growth, the leaders of various parties keep insisting. We need jobs. We need support for the youth. Seriously? Do they have a target based on a comprehensive economic policy? Have they devised key performance indicators to measure progress toward that target? Perhaps our politicians should learn about inflation and fiscal policy before making decisions and promising a better future.

The new taxes agreed in mid-July prove that policy is one item absent from the government’s overcrowded agenda. The fact that there still isn’t a detailed list of which new taxes are coming even after cabinet endorsed them, proves these new revenue streams will not flow into a long-term vision for true economic revival. They’re opportunistic grabs at cash to appease voters before an election.

Political rhetoric aside, this country needs economic growth and a long-term economic vision — or it really does risk collapse.

Back in 1966, when Intra Bank crumbled, our banking sector didn’t come down with it. In fact, by May 1975 non-resident private sector deposits in Lebanese commercial banks had not only recovered from a brief fall immediately after Intra collapsed, but had more than doubled to around $554 million compared to the month before Intra fell in October 1966. If this memory is fueling hope among our politicians that we can weather any storm, they had better think again. Money meant to support militias during war will stay during a crisis. The non-resident deposits flooding banks’ coffers since 1992, however, are hard-earned savings that will disappear as soon as real country risk begins to manifest.

So what is growth? It’s the result of a properly functioning and sufficiently supported private sector. This month we highlight yet another opportunity for kick-starting growth in the local design sector. Our deepest pool of capital in the country is our talented men and women. Our designers need support. They need an ecosystem that can help them add value, scale, attract investment, and cement Lebanon as a regional design hub. We’ve missed so many opportunities, we can’t let this one slip away too.

Companies around the world have used design to create global brands worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, we cannot even dream of birthing such a success if we continue pushing our talent abroad. We need a realistic and achievable economic vision. And we need it fast.

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