BEIRUT — The Foreign Affairs Ministry has notified more than a dozen economic attachés that their positions will be terminated at the end of 2023, two diplomatic sources confirmed to L'Orient-Le Jour.
The civil servants are attached to Lebanon's embassies and consular missions and are responsible for studying economic issues, providing information to public administrations and assisting traders and industrialists in foreign markets.
Fifteen commercial attachés in Washington, Moscow, Brussels, Paris, London and Kuwait have been informed of the decision to abolish their posts. "Many things can change between now and the end of the year, so it's possible that this decision could be changed," a diplomatic source pointed out.
"There's no need for a commercial attaché; his job can be done by the diplomat," said another diplomatic source. "When commercial attachés were hired, it was to serve the interests of certain political parties. Now that the Foreign Affairs Ministry has realized that it was simple corruption and clientelism, it is reacting and reducing unnecessary costs."
The ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
In a press release, the Lebanese Industrialists Association "expressed its deep regret at the decision of the Foreign Affairs Ministry to abolish the functions of commercial attachés."
"This measure will wipe out all the efforts made in recent years to open up new markets for industrial exports and create new trade relations with a large number of countries," the statement added. |The association also believes that "there is still time to find solutions to this crisis."
"The decision to abolish the functions of economic attachés by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs threatens Lebanon's trade and economic relations with important and influential countries that import more than two billion dollars from Lebanon every year, and contribute to the stability of several industries," warned MP Farid Boustany on the X network (formerly Twitter). "What is needed is a serious review and study of the decision by the Foreign Affairs Ministry in order to find effective solutions that preserve the economic ties between Lebanon and abroad."
In April, caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib dismissed reports that the ministry intended to close down certain Lebanese diplomatic and consular missions due to the economic crisis. Still, Lebanese diplomats abroad receive their income intermittently, due to the lack of available foreign currency to pay them. They also do not receive adaquate funds to maintain and run diplomatic missions.