The war years in Lebanon were particularly ugly near the end. I was 16 years old when the bottom fell out from under the lira, and the currency collapse changed everything. People lost their jobs. Wealth vanished. Desperation reigned. We were used to being terrorized by bombs, bullets and ever-accurate mortar shells. Financial terrorism proved even worse.
Crooks preyed on distressed and vulnerable people who, even if they might have known better, still fell for their scams. Fear that your family would starve or be pushed onto the street, however, did not inspire the best decisions. Criminality was everywhere. Certain unscrupulous types were approving loans they knew would fail to get their hands on land or property at obscenely low prices. It was a morality-free zone.
Last December, seeing an advertisement designed to dupe people who lack a social safety net brought back some of my worst memories. We’ve been living through an economic disaster the past few years, and all signs point to distress. Even our drug trade is flourishing again. I fear for what we’re becoming. I don’t want to live in a country of outlaws, isolated from the global economy. I want a country where honest hard work and entrepreneurial risk taking are respected and rewarded.
Executive has spent more than 16 years advocating for ways our government officials can make Lebanon better for all. We must remember, however, that building a prosperous country requires individual initiative and individual responsibility. Our focus in 2016 on business ethics includes a series of warnings we all must heed. We take a look at the many opportunities that adherence to international best practices can provide.
This month we report how Beirut should position itself as a hub for private banking with an ethical investment focus. Money can be made honestly, and we mustn’t forget that. We have been sailing back into the morality-free zone. It’s time to reverse course.