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Lebanon - Lebanon scrambles to attract IT investment

IDAL calls on regional and international IT firms to tap country's opportunities

Lebanon is lobbying hard to attract international software and IT firms to set up offices in the country and better utilize the Lebanese human resources. This lobbying was reflected in the call by the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) on regional and international IT companies and investors to tap the excellent investment opportunities offered by Lebanon.

As part of the Authority's participation at Gitex Dubai 2005, Nabil Itani, chairman of IDAL, highlighted the world-class infrastructure facilities and support services offered by the Lebanese IT market, as well as the significant role played by IDAL to attract regional and international investments to the country, especially in the IT sector.

Itani emphasized on the positive business climate in Lebanon and the stability of its economy, which has been further underlined by the remarkable rise in pan-Arab investment in the country, from $ 850 million in 2003 to $1.05 billion in 2004. He also shed light on IDAL's efforts to create an investor-friendly environment to attract new IT projects to Lebanon, by offering a host of facilities and services to companies setting up operations in the country. The total worth of projects supported by IDAL is estimated at $ 492 million, while projects worth $330 million more are in the negotiation stage.

"The Lebanese economy has successfully recovered from the brief slowdown, and has now gathered the sufficient momentum and stability required for sustained growth. With its highly skilled human resources, its strategic location as a link between the East and the West, free markets and a vibrant banking sector, Lebanon remains one of the most exciting investment destinations in the region," Itani said.

"IDAL has realized the strategic importance of the IT industry in today's world, where technology penetration level in the society is deemed a major factor determining growth and success. The IT industry attracts more investments than other sectors, generating numerous employment opportunities for professionals. Recognizing this, Lebanon has given priority to this sector by applying flexible measures for setting up IT projects, with a minimum capital expenditure of $200,000 for setting up consulting service, while the minimum capital required for projects under the under the Package Deal Contract is $400,000," added Itani.

A host of leading Lebanese IT companies are participating in GITEX Dubai 2005 under the umbrella of Professional Computer Association (PCA). The Lebanese pavilion at GITEX is located in Sheikh Rashid Hall, E9, at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.

Jalal Fawaz, president of the Professional Computer Association, said: "Lebanon has recently witnessed a surge in Arab investments in its ICT sector. A number of multinational companies have set up their regional office in Beirut to service the Levant market, including CA, which launched a contact centre in the city. There is today an urgent need to enhance Arab cooperation in the IT sector, and we are pleased to note that a strong strategic relation has developed between Dubai and Beirut. We call upon multinational companies to take advantage of the host of incentives IDAL offers companies setting up operations in Lebanon."

"Lebanon is committed to pursue vigorously its strategy to support the IT sector, a fact that has been reaffirmed by the Lebanese government through efforts to liberalize different sectors and boost infrastructure facilities, especially within the communication industry, where services fees has been reduced and broad band networks implemented all over the country. We believe that these steps would consolidate Lebanon's position as a leading regional IT market," Itani said.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report ranked Lebanon among the fastest growing IT markets in the region, and the country is listed fourth among all Arab States in terms of Internet penetration.

"We commend IDAL's efforts to further the growth of the Lebanese IT industry and heighten the country's investment appeal by offering a host of support services to investors. Lebanon has highly skilled human resources, state-of-the-art infrastructure and other facilities required to emerge as a leader in software development," said Michel Nseir, head of Lebanese Pavilion at GITEX Dubai 2005. "Being the most important IT exhibition in the region, GITEX Dubai 2005 provides us with an ideal platform to interact with IT players from the Middle East and beyond, and highlight the attractive investment opportunities in the Lebanon."

IDAL was established in 1994 following a directive from the Lebanese Council of Ministers to spearhead Lebanon's investment promotion efforts. IDAL was restructured and supported by the enactment of the Investment Development Law 360 in 2001. IDAL's mission includes promoting domestic and foreign entities and striving to stimulate Lebanon's economic and social development, while enhancing its competitiveness.

In addition, IDAL focuses on promoting Lebanon as a viable investment destination and seeks to foster, facilitate and retain investments in the country. IDAL's areas of responsibility include identifying and promoting investment opportunities, disseminating market intelligence about Lebanon, facilitating the registration and issuance of permits and licenses required for investment projects, providing ongoing support for investment projects once established, identifying potential joint venture partners and strategic allies for Lebanese businesses, and advising the Lebanese government on investment policy issues.

Beirut,10 03 2005
The Daily Star
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