Home Economics & PolicyComment The Lebanese Private Sector Network: A strategy to grow, sustain, and protect


The Lebanese Private Sector Network: A strategy to grow, sustain, and protect

the coming year demands action from all private sector participants

by Rima Freiji

For the Lebanese Private Sector Network (LPSN), the year of 2023 is the year of action, a year where we will focus on vigorously pursuing a major employment creation initiative along with further developing our regular initiatives, financial access, and international outreach. 

After our organization’s establishment in late 2021; a peak time of economic collapse and a time when inaction in decision making had been manifesting itself as an enduring and destructive political pattern, 2022 for us was a year of formation and reaching the stage of credibility. We completed last year with the successful filing to register LPSN as a non-governmental organization at the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities. In the current year, however, we are acting upon our foundation of last year’s successes in developing our membership, networking, and building trust with our stakeholders, which include our employees and partners in the Lebanese economy.

From our inception during some of the darkest days of Lebanese history, LPSN has been aiming to bring together companies and leaders from across the industrial sectors and the services sectors, seeking to secure that the private sector has a worthy seat at every table where economic matters and business reform decisions are debated in think tanks, research entities, civil society circles, and policy making institutions. 

The topics we cover are at the heart of public interest. From education to the environment, to healthcare and finance, we strive to bring you fresh perspectives on the issues that matter.

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It is our aim to influence economic stakeholder groups and acquire actionable insights from legacy organizations’ long-standing contributions to industry and economy. We do not aim to duplicate the work of existing syndicates and business organizations but aid and promote their efforts that we believe in. 

The work of LPSN is driven by two pillars. The first is the conviction that protection of the formal economy and the work of law-abiding companies is the only way for rebuilding an economy going forward. This means that we adhere to and advocate for strict border controls, fair taxation and customs, neutrality, and moving towards a decentralized state organization. 

Advocacy for growth

Above all, we ask for all people and all economic entities in this country to abide by the Lebanese Constitution.  Many of our LPSN members are involved in responsible roles at syndicates and with legacy business groupings – but it is this commitment to principles of political economy and the protection of the formal economy that sets us apart from business lobbies which do not delve into matters seen by them as politically divisive. 

The second pillar of LPSN is our action and practical advocacy for growth and sustainability. In this, we stand alongside many other organizations and companies. We work on everything that involves growth and employment creation. We hold it to be true that an employed citizen who earns a living wage is a citizen who has regained their dignity. We also believe that such a citizen, who is no longer beholden to a livelihood derived from membership in a politicized sectarian community or clientilistic allegiance to a political overlord, will make the right choices when it comes to the election of political leaders.

We want it to be clear, however, that LPSN is not an organization with political ambitions, nor do we seek to be policy makers, a think tank, or a research entity.  Our two pillars, as stated above, are the defense and protection of the formal economy on one hand and the pursuit of growth and sustainability on the other.

 To this end we have already gathered almost 70 members as of January 2023. Over this and the following years we aim, with emphasis on leadership quality over quantity, to grow into a core network of no more than 100 highly effective, highly influential members, seeking out private sector leaders who are committed to serving their homeland and to upholding the Lebanese constitution. 

We have designed four operational units that are aligned with our two pillars: the Economic Security unit is the conduit of protecting the formal economy; the units of Local Output and Capacity Building, Universal Access to Health [Care], and Sustainability and Digital Transformation comprise our efforts to foster growth and sustainability. All our endeavors at LPSN are guided by eight fundamental objectives, as written here in an abbreviated list:

1. Reaching a critical mass of influential members

2. Ensuring a seat at the table of think tanks and policy makers

3. Developing financial support mechanisms and alternative financing channels 

4. Pursuing short term survival while lobbying in the long term for an economy focused on productivity and employment

5. Increasing public awareness of the role of local businesses

6. Promoting the private sector as value creator and central contributor to a sustainable economy 

7. Communicating vital private sector demands through relevant and effective mobilizations, pressure tools and media coverage

8. Connecting with international entities and the Lebanese diaspora for awareness, knowledge sharing, support, and alignment

A year for collaboration

Advancements towards two of these objectives, namely developing better access to finance (objective 3) and achieving international outreach (objective 8), will be our key performance indicators in 2023. Besides a major labor creation initiative in collaboration with several universities – an ambitious project which we will reveal more of in the next few months and plan to launch towards the middle of 2023 with a two-year time horizon – we will throughout this year carry forward our weekly internal meetings and our series of educational, policy discussion, and advocacy workshops on the topics that are relevant to the economic development of Lebanon. 

We are planning to hold four training workshops and four other workshops, for a total of eight in-person events. We will continue to collaborate on regular podcasts with media organization Annahar and engage with other media and influencers. In terms of key documents, we are currently preparing a list of “policy asks” that will guide our interaction with public sector decision makers and our legal advocacy. To support all of these activities, we are planning on the organizational side to establish a permanent office with a full-time manager and two part-time staff members.

 It is truly unfortunate but we have to concede here that we have a greater degree of confidence in the development of LPSN than in the growth of the Lebanese economy in 2023.  The outlook for national productivity and the private sector economy is marred by the absence of constructive decision making. We deem it unrealistic to expect any positive and measurable economic outcomes in the year 2023, given the inaction of the decision makers in politics. Thus we see next to no chance for Lebanon to make great strides out of the current crisis as long as there is indecision and procrastination of needed reforms. A constructive political will has yet to be formed. Against this bleak outlook, we will lobby throughout this year to create a viable political will in our democratic institutions and we hope that our lobbying efforts result in a shift in the political landscape towards reforms and fulfillment of constitutional imperatives and be joined by other stakeholders in 2023. 

We also are seeing with great concern that the private sector is being demonized while its importance for the recovery is being either misunderstood or denied. With less regulation and weaker supervision, the system is inviting more and more people to become less ethical. Therefore it is also part of our fight to battle against any increase in unethical behavior by economic actors. As we are furthermore witnessing how more and more economic actors are drifting into informality (as apparent in the recent rise of the cash economy) and even see expansions of organized economic criminality, we are going to incessantly advocate for administrative reforms and for restructuring of the public sector, for reforms of banking and the central bank, and for implementation of judicial independence. 

Our top demand is for implementation of the Lebanese constitution, which states that ours is a liberal, democratic country. LPSN is fully aware that the reversal of the economic collapse may need temporary measures that are painful to economic actors and may even contradict some of the usual preferences for private sector liberal economic growth. However, we insist that taxation is designed to be fair and supportive of economic growth, not short-term state funding interests.  We have no chance of saving our economy and country if we do not save the private sector.

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Rima Freiji

The president of the Lebanese Private Sector Network
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Brigitte KhairMountain

Head of International Advocacy
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Iman Tabbara

Co-leaders of the LPSN Economic Security Unit
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Riccardo Hosri

Co-leaders of the LPSN Economic Security Unit
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