Monday, June 11, 2007

Bombing in Zouk Mosbeh takes heavy toll on the struggling industrial sector

Bombing in Zouk Mosbeh takes heavy toll on the struggling industrial sector
Owners of factories hope to receive swift government compensation

By Osama Habib
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Lebanese industry, still reeling from the devastating Israeli war in July of last year, received another blow on Thursday when a bomb explosion in Zouk Mosbeh, 20 kilometers from Beirut, leaving dozens of small- and medium-sized factories in total ruins. Nicholas Abi Naser, the head of Kaesroun industrial association, told The Daily Star that most of the factories and workshops in Zouk Mosbh were either destroyed or damaged. "We have not assessed the value of the damages. But we hope to get a good idea next week," Abi Naser said. He added that the owners of these damaged factories expect the government to provide them with badly needed financial assistance to help rebuild these installations. Paint and gas cylinder plants in Zouk Mosbh ignited fires following the explosion and the owner of one of workshops died instantly from the blaze. "Terrorists have declared an open war on Lebanon and the industrial sector is one of the victims of this war." But Abi Naser was not too upbeat about the prospects of aid from the government in the near future. "The factories that were hit during the July-August war did not receive a penny from the government, despite numerous promises."

Fadi Abboud, the President of the Industrial Association, estimated the cost of war on industry at more than $200 million. Lebanon received more than $950 million from the donor countries that met in Stockholm in August 2005 but the industrialists say they did receive any of this money. Abi Naser warned that the industrial association will resort to different means to induce the government to compensate the industrialists.The industrial zone in Zouk Mosbh is considered one of the main manufacturing complexes in the Kaesroun Mountain. Investments in the industrial sector in Kaesroun area alone exceed $1 billion. "Trust me. If the Lebanese industrialists could haul the machines and investments in a wheel they would not have hesitated to leave the country," Abi Naser said. He added that local manufacturers have little choice here. "We can't simply give up and pack our things because most of the manufacturers have commitments such as loans to commercial banks." He added that the industrialists are asking the government and the banks to re schedule existing loans with lower interest rates. "Most of the industries are already struggling as a result of the economic stagnation and this spate of bombings is making our lives more difficult." He stressed that industrialists can barely break even. Abi Nasr said that government should embrace the industry just like any other sector. "Industry provides lot of jobs in the market as well as improves the balance of payments."

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