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French Version

Lebanon plans investor-friendly climate

Ministry working on improving judicial procedures for contract enforcement

Lebanon is in the process of enacting a Code of Tax Procedures which will define taxpayers' rights and responsibilities, a Lebanese official said Tuesday during a conference at the Dead Sea.

Lebanon's National Investment Reform agenda was presented by Carol Khouzami, official at the Finance Ministry, at the MENA Investment ministerial meeting.

Underway measures to be taken to attract more investment to the country included establishing a general income tax system, reducing administrative obstacles to business activities and reforming commercial legislation to facilitate the entry and exit of companies.

Khouzami explained that the ministry is drafting a modern bankruptcy law and working on improving judicial procedures for contract enforcement and commercial disputes with the assistance of international institutions. She said that "a comprehensive review will be conducted on tax incentives for business activities in order to assess the costs and effectiveness of these measures."

At the sidelines of the meeting, she told The Daily Star that tax incentives are a plus that investors cannot discard arguing that the country had to compensate for its political instability and competition from other countries of the region where corporate tax rates are very low.

In an effort to foster an entrepreneurial culture in the region, she said that Lebanon plans on establishing a regional center of excellence.

The aims will be to: "encourage research on potential employment creation through start-ups and expansion of enterprises; identify and train entrepreneurs, including young and women entrepreneurs; advise on proper regulatory systems and techniques for enterprise finance and provide training for government bodies, financial institutions and enterprises."

Meanwhile Fouad Zmokhol, general secretary of the Lebanese Businessmen Association (LBA), who represented the Lebanese private sector at the meeting, spoke about the role of the private sector in improving corporate governance and business ethics.

He said the LBA has been working as part of the Lebanese Corporate Governance Task Force to put forward codes for small and medium enterprises and listed companies as well as draft laws for listed companies and access to information.

"Political and economic risks, reputation effects, and learning within the business community all influence the adoption of a self-regulatory strategy" by corporate leaders as a response to competing pressures, he said.

Zmokhol added that "the private sector was 100 percent against any increase in taxes at this phase." "Inflow should not come from a tax raise but rather from growth," he said, adding that governmental institutions, could not be trusted to distribute their financial resources well and efficiently.

Zmokhol criticized the government for not having a specific long term plan for the Lebanese economy, calling for the establishment of an independent task force grouping members from the public and private sectors to agree on a common economic reform plan.

Beirut 21-02-2006
Raed El Rafei
The Daily Star

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