The country enjoys a free-market economy, although US ratings agency Moodys recently downgraded its B1 standing from stable to negative. In 2001, the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) was established to encourage investment in the country, offering tax breaks and a series of exemptions to companies upon both set-up and operation. Foreign investment is not restricted and the economys main areas of strength include banking and tourism. The average time taken to start a business in the country is nine days, according to IDAL.
In recent years, the National Investment Law of 2001 has been upgraded, making trading conditions for small and medium-sized enterprises more appealing. Lebanons economy has been struggling in the past couple of years, with gross domestic product growth of just 1.5 per cent. The conflicting in neighbouring Syria is hurting the economy, denting investor sentiment. In the longer term, oil and gas discoveries give reason for optimism, however. Lebanons economy is only the 91st freest in the world, according to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom from US think tank The Heritage Foundation.
The country currently operates one main free zone, the Logistics Free Zone, which is run by the Port of Beirut (POB). Established in 1995, the zone offers 100 per cent foreign ownership and customs exemptions. The port covers 1.2 million square metres, of which 11,200 sq m comprises the free zone. In 2007, POB opened the logistics free zone area to accommodate companies that operate in transport, transit, export, logistics and international trade.
Tripoli port, in the north of the country, stretches over 320,000 sq m, with a further 420,000 sq m allocated for a future zone, including a container berth and a free economic zone.
In 2012, IDAL launched a specialised economic zone pilot project in Tripoli. This zone comprises 55 warehouses and 46 yards, catering to import, export and re-export. Lebanon is also planning two new free zones in the north, at Selaata and Qlaiaat, although information about progress is scarce.
- Nine days is the average time it takes to set up a company in Lebanon.
- The countrys gross domestic product stands at $55.5bn.
- The extended free zone in Tripoli will cover 420,000 square metres.
- Lebanon is ranked 91st in the list of the worlds most open economies.
Free zone list
Click on the free zone name for more details
Port of Beirut Logistics Free Zone (LFZ)
Inaugurated in July 2007 at Beirut port, the LFZ was Lebanons first free zone. The port was revamped in the early 1990s to include four docks, a further two quays and a new container terminal, which became operational in 2005.
The port covers 1.2 million sq m, of which 11,200 sq m is occupied by the free trade zone. The container terminal has a capacity of 700,000 20-foot equivalent units a year. It is equipped with five ship-to-shore gantry cranes, with an outreach of 60 metres each, and 10 rubber-tyre gantry cranes.
The port handles approximately 6 million tonnes of cargo annually, representing about 55 per cent of all imports to Beirut and 60 per cent of exports. Another 20 per cent of incoming and out-going trade is handled by Beirut airport. The duty-free market area in the LFZ comprises modular shops. There are three industrial buildings covering 32,400 sq m and 52 warehouses, each built on about 200 sq m of space.
- 100 per cent foreign ownership
- Customs exemptions on import and export from the zone
- Long-term, low-cost land and building leases
- Low-cost utilities
- Import, export and repacking
- International trade
- Warehouse rental: From $5,000 a year for 70 sq m
- Courtyard rental: From $20/sq m a year
Tripoli port currently runs a free zone comprising 55 warehouses and 46 yards, built across 151,750 sq m. The space is mainly used for storage. A further 420,000 sq m has been allocated for a larger zone in the future.
- Customs tax exemption
- Import, export and re-export
Investment Development Authority of Lebanon
Lazarieh Tower, 4th Floor,
Emir Bechir Street, Riad el-Solh
PO Box 113-7251
Tel: (+961) 1 983 306
Fax: (+961) 1 983 302/3
PO Box 1490 Beirut, Lebanon
Tel: (+961) 1 580 211
Fax: (+961) 1 585 835
Tel: (+961) 6 600 413/ 621 1775
Fax: (+961) 6 220 180