First SME Forum - Your Needs, Our ChallengesJul 18, 2017
Under the high patronage of His Excellency the President of the Lebanese Republic General Michel Aoun, represented by H. E. the Minister of Economy & Trade and in collaboration with the Central Bank of Lebanon, the Ministry of Economy and Trade initiated an interactive full day forum that took place at the Pavillon Royal, Biel on July 11, 2017 under the slogan “Your Needs, Our Challenges”. This conference aimed at discussing and targeting Small and Medium Enterprise’s (SME) roles in Lebanon’s business environment at a national level and to enhance SME’s performances through live interventions and thought exchanges held by major representatives from private, public sectors, Civil Society and donors.
The Lebanese SME Forum is the first of a series of a yearly thematic forums that aim to enhance interactions between constituents of the SME environment in Lebanon and to identify a number of actionable and practical recommendations that both the Ministry and other stakeholders will follow up to in order to forge a better business atmosphere. The main speakers that was present and participated in the opening of the forum along with the Minister of Economy and Trade, H.E. Raed Khoury, the Governor of Central Bank, Mr. Riad Salameh; and the President of the Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture (CCIAB), of Beirut & Mount-Lebanon, Mr. Mohamad Choucair. Additionally, NGO’s, civil society, private sector, and donors played a role in supporting the SME to strengthen the business environment, Accordingly, such a mission indeed showed improvements since 2000, through significant contributions from the Central Bank, and foreign development agencies (European Investment Bank) by supplying long-term loans, focusing on on selected industries. By 2005, Lebanon shifted its focus of support mainly to SME’s, especially in light of increased global attention to contexts that had to do with the rise of unemployment rates. Private sector and NGO’s cooperation with UNDP’s continuous support to and collaboration with the government and the Chambers of Commerce planned the establishment of the SME unit “Enterprise Team”. This unit started the implementation of the Integrated Small and Medium Enterprise Support Program (ISSP). Yet, the strategy adopted still lacked sufficient traction. In order to tackle such gaps, the Ministry of Economy & Trade initiated yearly interactive SME forums, in which they will define several priorities that can enhance the business environment in Lebanon. This new National Strategy that covers the period 2014-2020, defined a road map with more than 42 initiatives that would support the development of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Lebanon and improve the conduct of business that can ensure a long-term sustainable social and economic growth.
During the event, the guests provided their support and showed their appreciation to SME’s Forum task in targeting many of Lebanon’s weaknesses. Mr. Mohamad Choucair stated that it is time to consider financial plans that can support Lebanon’s infrastructure, economy, and end all kind of corruption. Choucair also acknowledged the EU and H.E. Raed Khoury’s constant support in promoting and helping SME initiatives throughout this process. Mr. Riad Salameh confirmed also that the Lebanese currency is and will remain stable thanks to the SME’s ability in helping to maintain a healthy business environment. Salameh also added, that the Central Bank will preserve its effort in maintaining transparency and fighting money laundering. Moreover, he encouraged for a new culture to be implemented in the financial markets that can help in bypassing previous challenges. Finally, on behalf of H.E. the President General Michel Aoun, the Minister Raed Khoury ended the conference and declared that the Parliament and Government must provide a new economic plan by establishing a clear strategy that targets job creation and promotes economic growth in Lebanon. Khoury asserted that all sectors should work together for a better outcome by stating, “We do have all the sufficient requirements in allowing us to succeed and to lead a better promising future”. He also accredited Lebanon’s recent achievements in facilitating customs’ procedures, and building training programs for SME’s, in collaboration with the UN. Khoury concluded his speech by appreciating the high level participation and their enriching contributions to the Forum and thanked Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Lebanon, for his effort and coordination in helping this forum reach positive results.
Finally, the SME forum is indeed one of many successful programs that intend to target the Sustainable Development Goals, especially by reducing poverty and unemployment rates through job opportunities, for all ages and genders, and economic growth. As for Mrs. Jessy Trad Kastoun, Director of the Ceremony, she stated that, “The time has arrived for Lebanon to take better decisions and strategies to ensure a sustainable future”.