Ever since Christopher Columbus touched the Spanish royal family for some venture capital and discovered the new world, history has been littered with the achievements of those who were both bold enough to fight for their ideas and those who had enough faith to back them.
In Lebanon, this entrepreneurial drive has been solely developed and driven by the private sector, one that accepts that it does not operate in the most favorable business environment but still succeeds in combining a flair that is underpinned with shrewd business savvy. GS, Rectangle Jaune, Roadster, Casper and Gambini’s, and Zaatar W Zeit are but a few examples of Lebanese business spirit that has won over an Arab world still obsessed with importing ideas.
But where is the government support? Is it in the $20/m2 in license fees to set up a factory? Is it in the red tape and extra payments required by civil servants not qualified to do their jobs? Does it perhaps lie in the corridors of IDAL, the so-called one-stop-shop that has so far failed to deliver? Maybe it is all of the above. Fortunately, Lebanese business has learned to thrive independently. It will never die, but it may just go elsewhere.
EXECUTIVE believes in the private sector and that is why it has placed so much importance in this month’s issue, which is heavily tilted towards finance and investment. Thomas Schellen dreams of a united Arab stock market as well as offering a selection of financial tools for the investor in 2005. Nicolas Photiades takes the legacy of Columbus and looks at the limited venture capital opportunities in Lebanon, while Faysal Badran casts doubt on the nation’s appetite to spend in the run up to Christmas. Finally, EXECUTIVE talks to Naji Butros, the investment banker who gave up heading a $24 million profit-making division at Merrill Lynch to encourage investment in his own country.
Finally, we cannot ignore the recent politicking, which once again threatens to pull the country three steps back after one hard-earned, step forward. In our cover story, Joey Ghaleb, argues what is at stake for Lebanon if the international community feels our leaders are not serious about economic reform, while Tony Hchaime predicts the fiscal outlook in the wake of the presidential extension.