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The Daily Star - April 20, 2010

by Dana Halawi

Finance Minister Raya Hassan on Monday urged the private sector in Turkey to take part in all the infrastructure projects that the Lebanese government is about to launch.

“Our government is about to begin a new project, the 2010 budget, to increase investment expenditure on projects aimed at promoting services and infrastructure, especially the electricity and road [infrastructures],” she said. “We highly rely on the support that could be provided by [Ankara] to Lebanon to improve the Lebanese infrastructure, especially when it comes to the electricity sector.”

Hassan said Parliament had recently received a draft law aimed at organizing the partnership between the private and public sectors. “We hope that this draft law will be approved soon in order to increase the participation of the private sector in the large investment projects,” she added.

Her remarks came during the Turkish-Lebanese forum organized by Confex International in cooperation with the Lebanese-Turkish Business Council and held at the Movenpick Hotel in Beirut.

The forum aims at highlighting the opportunities for economic cooperation that exist between Lebanon and Turkey.

Hassan, who was representing Premier Saad Hariri, said Beirut aims to promote and increase trade exchange between both countries which is currently estimated at $900 million. “The bilateral agreement currently under discussion will help us raise the amount and the value of the trade exchange.”

She also expressed the Lebanese government’s willingness to improve Lebanon’s investment climate and promote Turkish investment in Lebanon.

She added that there were many sectors where cooperation was possible between Lebanon and Turkey.

Her views were echoed by Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud who said that the Lebanese tourism sector provides promising investment opportunities.

“Promoting tourism coordination between Lebanon and Turkey is an important pillar for the economies of both nations,” he said. “The signing of a deal to end visa requirements between Lebanon and Turkey is an important entry point to promoting tourism cooperation between [the two countries].”

He said this would help in opening a new tourism perspective, especially that both countries were considered important tourism gateways between Europe the Middle East.

But Abboud said this initiative alone would not achieve all the required results and that creating a partnership between the different sectors of both countries was necessary. He also praised the performance of the tourism sector in Lebanon and said that it would be witnessing 20 percent growth in 2010.

But he said Lebanon was the only country in the world where tours and packages do not represent over 3 percent of the tourism sector. “This is why we should increase the number of packages to Lebanon which should be regulated with bilateral deals and in coordination with travel agencies.”

From his side, Rifat Hisarciklioglu, president of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey stressed the importance of boosting trade exchange between Turkey and the Arab world which would contribute to regional stability.

He said 50 percent of developed nations maintain trade relations with one another, and that is why they are considered rich countries. “They are sharing their common resources … and making the best use of them,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have forgotten about establishing solid trade ties between Turkey and the Middle East, and this is why we are facing many security problems and obstacles.”

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