East Switzerland. The Ambassador of Lebanon’s recovery after the war, investment in Ukraine and cooperation in the banking sector

Ambassador extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lebanon in Ukraine Ali Daher told Focus about what it is like Lebanese and Ukrainians

Olga Pryadko – 08.05.18 30000

The middle East is a complex region with a large number of local conflicts and full scale wars. There is Lebanon, a small country on the Mediterranean sea. Although not the most quiet neighborhood, country, developing the economy, strengthening trade links in the world, including Ukraine. Currently, the two countries have signed 28 agreements on cooperation, 9 pending and 4 ready to be signed. Ukraine has about 15 Lebanese enterprises.

Ambassador extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lebanon to Ukraine Mr. Ali Daher began his duties 4 months ago. During this time he managed to learn a few Ukrainian words, but also notice that largely Lebanese and Ukrainians alike. And this, at least, guarantee that to develop the cooperation of businessmen from both countries will be comfortable.

Focus recorded this interview a few days after the US air force, France and Britain launched strikes on Syria. With this theme we started a conversation.

As the escalation of the conflict in Syria affects the situation in Lebanon?

— The crisis in Syria had a negative impact on Lebanon, mainly due to humanitarian issues. Many Syrians were looking for a safe place. Our country has become one of those who took the highest number of people fleeing from war. Lebanon is a small country, where approximately 4.5 million people, the Syrians, we are now almost a quarter of the population — 1.3 million people. Of course, it affects the economy. Overpopulation has affected the social sector, education system, health system etc.

Lebanon financial support to refugees, as it does, for example, Europe?

— Yes, there is financing from the international community. But it is less than expected. We are looking for more opportunities for cooperation with international donors, as they do not give the promised support to the fullest. And the policy of Lebanon to support refugee return in a peaceful place in Syria.

Lebanon says it is ready to become a hub through which will the restoration of Syria. After the recent attacks on the United States, France and Britain eti plans still stand?

— With the final resolution of the conflict in Syria, Lebanon sees itself as a hub through which Ukrainian companies among others can participate in the reconstruction of Syria. This is quite a natural decision, given the geographical location of Lebanon. We are interested to help in attracting businessmen and the private sector in the reconstruction of Syria when the time comes. It is beneficial to Lebanon, because it will allow you to extend the cooperation of private business.

In recent years, Lebanon is stepping up its imports of goods from Ukraine. What of the Ukrainian goods today are interested to buy the country?

In 2017, Ukraine exported to Lebanon products, for approximately $430 million in Exports from the country amounted to slightly less than $5 million to Lebanon to wheat, sunflower oil, metal, wood, nuts and livestock. This is not a complete list. We are looking for opportunities to invest in Ukraine. We also invite the Ukrainian companies to more actively invest in the economy of Lebanon. Ukrainian companies may be interested to develop business here, since the country is a big project simple collateral, the amount of which is $11 billion. I think that Ukrainian businesses would be interested to invest in projects related to water provision, electricity. Technology in Ukraine at a high level. Lebanon need to Ukraine participated in projects for electrification, waste management, infrastructure development.

Let’s go back to the export. How difficult is it to export to Lebanon? Do I need special permits, certificates?

In Lebanon there is no particular limitation on the import of goods from Ukraine. Although we all know that leads some protectionism for some of their own products. But what Lebanon wants to buy from Ukraine, there are no restrictions.

Recently in Ukraine is becoming increasingly popular Halal and kosher products. If Lebanon is interested in such products?

— Halal products abound in Lebanon. The production itself was considered necessary to obtain a permit for marking. This industry not only relates to religion. This production is growing in Singapore and Thailand. And it’s not Muslim countries. This development is rather a response to the demand of the market. We do not export to Ukraine Halal certified. But if the Ukrainian market needs such products I think that traders and chambers of Commerce of both countries, you can request permission on the marking. But for us it’s very important to adjust the supply as Halal and not Halal products. But I do not think that today, Lebanon’s Halal products from Ukraine is urgently needed.

Recently, the chamber of Commerce of Ukraine and Lebanon signed a cooperation agreement. How this will further affect the development of trade relations and attraction of investments?

Is one of the ways to strengthen the relationship. We have an official cooperation agreement. But I think that big business should own to visit the country and assess the horizons of cooperation. The cooperation of the private sector is very important. One way of strengthening such linkages is the creation of counseling centers in both countries with the support of chambers of Commerce. Lebanon is also looking for opportunities to bring to Ukraine the Lebanese banking sector. Our expertise is known worldwide. I think that Ukraine today, we need such institutions. It is also impossible to deny the importance of tourism. This direction can be fruitful for both countries.

What do you mean when you talk about development projects in the banking sector of Ukraine?

In Lebanon banks is one of the important sectors of the economy. The country is often called the Switzerland of the Middle East because of the high standards of the banking sector. Lebanon is one of the countries that cooperates with the international institutions of the highest level of professionalism. This can give a kind of additional cost as the exchange of experience is important.

Cooperation in the banking sector implies the opening of some banking institutions in Ukraine?

This can be a joint venture, perhaps a Lebanese Bank. It depends on how negotiations between the two countries. In Europe, Iran and Syria before the conflict began, the Lebanese banks were working, even the global economic crisis of 2008 did not affect this sector. Ukraine and Lebanon have an agreement between Central banks. Recalling the agreements signed between the two banks, we try to arrange a meeting with the competent employees of the Bank for negotiation and appointment dates. But it will be, of course, about a private Bank. No one knows how long it will take, but I would start at least tomorrow (laughs).

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For Ukraine today, the economic recovery is extremely importantyou, especially after the fall of the hostilities in the Donbas. About 30 years ago in Lebanon over the civil war. How quickly the country managed to restore the economy?

— Lebanon has recovered approximately 6-10 years after Mr. Rafik Hariri became Prime Minister. At that time he had extensive experience in the private sector and knew what he was doing. In addition, the Lebanese themselves would quickly forget this period and to rebuild the country. Rafik Hariri began to organise conferences to support the development of Lebanon and created a kind of economic miracle, such companies as Solidair and CDR (Council for Development and Reconstruction). I suggest that our Ukrainian friends to explore the experience of recovery. In any case, Ukraine will need partners who will develop trust and confidence.