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Lebanon, Economy

Before the civil war, Lebanon developed as a free-market economy with minimal government regulations. Because the country had a stable and open economy and strict laws regarding secrecy in banking, Beirut became the banking and investment center of the Middle East. From 1975 to 1990, however, warfare severely dislocated most economic sectors and destroyed structures and infrastructures totaling an estimated $25 billion to $30 billion. As the war damaged Lebanonís economy, most of the rest of the Middle East experienced an economic boom, and businesses moved from Beirut to other Middle East economic centers. Lebanonís economy did not collapse completely during the war, however, largely because foreign aid to competing militias fueled the wartime economy.

Since 1991 Lebanonís economy has begun to revive. Annual inflation, about 500 percent in 1987, was manageable by the mid-1990s. Gross domestic product (GDP) totaled $16.5 billion in 2000, with the GDP expanding by an average of 6 percent annually in the period 1990-2000. Horizon 2000, a multibillion-dollar reconstruction program to rebuild Beirutís central district, is the main focus of the governmentís energies. The government hopes the redevelopment will encourage a broader national recovery. Services, trade, manufacturing, and agriculture are now leading sectors, and the booming construction sector is also significant. However, the government remains severely short of funds and has increasingly privatized public functions, including some official monopolies, such as the postal service.

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