|Frem says government needs to act quickly to boost industrial sector - Production costs need to be reduced (Daily Star)
|Local producers can't afford further government delays in reducing fees that make production costs high and impede the sector's growth, Industry Minister George Frem said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with officials from various industrial sectors, Frem called on the government to reduce fees such as power and electricity costs, and provide more backing to the industrial sector."We have reached a point where we can no longer afford to postpone any further decisions to resolve the problem of power and others that can help boost the competitiveness of Lebanese industry," said Frem.
The minister had recently laid out a 10-year development plan for boosting Lebanon's industrial output through investments worth some $800 million. His plan aims to create 60,000 jobs and boost the industrial sector's contribution to the gross domestic product from around 10 percent to 30 percent.
Frem said the government, which put off looking into his plan until after the Arab summit, should now tackle these issues."The industrial sector is developing, but it didn't and still doesn't have proper state backing on par with other countries around the world that grant priority to productive sectors and the creation of job opportunities," he added.
Frem said a war on Iraq would certainly hurt the industrial sector, but urged firms to expand into new markets, such as Europe and the United States. Nearly 30 percent of Lebanon's agro-industrial exports head to the United States and another 15 percent to Europe, he added.
Fadi Abboud, the president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association, made a similar plea for trimming production costs during a visit to Public Works and Transport Minister Najib Mikati Wednesday.Abboud urged Mikati to push the government to implement the second clause of a 2000 decree cutting customs tariffs and reducing production costs. Abboud said the government had only reduced customs duties on imports, without pushing for a reduction in production costs, as it had promised in the 2000 decree.
A committee made up of officials from the Ministries of Industry, Finance and Economy ministry was established to map out ways for reducing these costs, but nothing has been achieved so far, he added.
The Daily Star