In times of economic-monetary-fiscal crises, social fatigue, and a lost seat on the global stage of relevance and priority, the people of Lebanon have brought their country back to the front pages of the world.
Over the last few days, the Lebanese have demonstrated – not only with public outcries of resolute enough-is-enough – but with uncontested evidence that they know how to change all indicators of economic worthiness, sustainability, and peace in their country.
The Lebanese people have proven that they do not destroy value; rather, they create it, and with a significant multiplier effect!
This display of value creation is so critical at a time when our private sector is deeply restrained and anxious about investing in the country. Our diaspora is even more nervous to commit remitted funds back to their homeland. Donor governments and foreign direct investment vehicles just do not believe that Lebanon can afford a further pile up of debt, even against extremely high-risk interest rates. Needless to say, the international community also does not believe in our public governance and state institutions to safeguard any foreign direct investment (FDI) from corruption and political embezzlement.
In other words, I for Investment in the GDP equation needs to be stimulated. The last days of national collective action on the streets have done just that.
Let’s talk about the investment potential that has been demonstrated on the streets of our Beirut, our Jal El Dib, our Tyre, our Tripoli, and all the far and in between.
The streets of our country have been data exhibits demonstrating the attractiveness of three key investment pillars. Each pillar screams investment value creation, innovation, and sustainability.
We begin with the youth. Imperative to this movement of many voices and walks of life has been the youth and all they bring to the table and represent. The students in our universities. The K-12 students from the many schools who have taken their school social media channels to superb displays of civic engagement. The toddlers, excited to be walking on roads not usually available to pedestrians or enjoying great views from the shoulders of their parents. And, the babies in their strollers being cradled by the rhythms of a pulsing nation.
The youth have brought to the streets the greatest reminder of all: That we, all of us, are responsible. Not for our Lebanon of today, but for the Lebanon we absolutely need to be tomorrow. They have held us all accountable to action away from words. And they have done so with incredible energy, stand-up improvised performances, and the most ingenious signage you have ever seen. Our greatest talent has put itself out there, and you have all been absolutely breathtaking!
We turn to the women. Female power in this country has taken on new heights of expression and identity. The Lebanese woman has thrown herself out there in a most-admirable leap of faith! Many women put themselves in front of cameras and TV stations to speak out loud and very clear. They spoke to the pains of their families and loved ones. They showed the deep creases of stress and mental breakdown eating at the core of the people.
Our women have also insisted on taking to the streets with their children to teach them the home-education principles of family, community, and country with quite the learning curve. Our women have also been ferocious agents of peace; standing between Internal Security Forces, barbed wire, and very expressive protesters as day turns to night in Riad Solh Square. This time around, we will not be taken for granted. The resilience of Lebanese female power is absolute, and in the last few days, has reigned!
Lastly – at least for now – is our display of Small, Micro, & Medium Enterprises (SMME) affection. Authentic grassroots micro and small businesses have popped up across all the demonstration gathering hubs, in response to a new demanding client in the market: protesters for a new definition of Lebanon. Yes, we have seen the shisha corners, water bottle stations, and snack stands… but we have also seen garbage collection initiatives, entertainment pop-ups from impromptu rappers and musicians, to DJs with full sound system installations. This entrepreneurial spirit presents a moment’s display window into the prospects for thriving tourism, entertainment, and environment economic sectors.
Where there is demand, Lebanon teaches you that there is always a market.
In totality, our grassroots social investment ecosystem has beautifully demonstrated the economics of peace, inclusivity, and re-inventiveness. Lebanon can claim to fame the intuitive ability to dance to the beat of a government reshuffling, and the elegant ability to do so with peaceful civic engagement and unfaltering citizenship.
So, what does it really mean to invest in this country? We need to stop assuming that investments can only be channeled through official (read: corrupt) government avenues. Lebanon is teaching us that investors –local businesses, the Lebanese diaspora, and the international community – that do choose to take that first step and invest directly in and alongside the people will be deeply rewarded, financially and with great social return on investment.
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