Day 2 of “The Beirut Conference – Towards an Economy Serving Mankind” resumed on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 with speeches by the Governor of the Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salameh; the former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers and former Finance Minister Raya al-Hassan.
Riad Salameh, Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, gave a speech on the second and last day of the conference, which was supported by H.E. Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic; UNIAPAC, the International Christian Union of Business Executives; and MA’AM, the Islamic-Christian Forum for Businessmen; and organized by International Fairs & Promotions (IFP Group).
According to the governor, “prosperity safeguards human dignity, and the great challenge facing today’s emerging governments is to find a nationwide project to restore hope to future generations, and provide the necessary tools to revive the job market so citizens feel that they can live honorably.”
In light of the growing international trend of central banks becoming more socially responsible, Salameh established that “The Central Bank of Lebanon’s initiatives stem from a social issues, in which the expansion of financial loans among all social classes led to the reformation of a middle class in Lebanon, and the development of the private sector resulted in the creation of new job opportunities,” labeling the bank’s initiatives and efforts in providing the right setting for investment and consumption as “complementing the role of governments.”
Salameh also pointed out the importance of the central banks’ role in today’s world’s economies in terms of governmental support, “needing more time to restore balance to public finances,” adding that “central banks are now taking necessary action to reduce unemployment by maintaining low interests rates despite inflation, and not increasing them till the unemployment rate decreases.”
Via statistics, Salemeh also explained how the Central Bank of Lebanon’s policies succeeded in “establishing trust in the cash sector, which enabled lowered interests rates and more financing,” pointing out that “cash deposits increased to $127 billion in 2012, while interest rates on the Lebanese Pound decreased to 7.07% by the end of the same year.” Thanks to this policy, “the GDP grew from $5.5 billion in 1992 to $43 billion in 2012.”
Day two’s sessions began with a speech by Raya al-Hassan, former Finance Minister, who believes the “the direction taken by today’s developing countries indicates the need for companies to be socially active in their community by implementing corporate social responsibility as one of their main goals. She also added that “the large setbacks for developing countries and their limited finances, leads them to partner with the private sector in order to implement basic services, which allows for more spending capabilities on socially responsible incentives.” She also added that “the private sector is capable of implementing corporate social responsibility through developing remote areas, improving their populations’ living standards and promoting social unity.”
Ruud Lubbers, Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands used his experience in launching the “Earth Charter” as an example of how shared values can transcend all differences to “meet common goals for the greater good of mankind.” Lubbers also pointed out that his initiative for establishing this organization were the “common grounds that, once established, can enable such an encounter as the former communist president of the Soviet Union, Yuri Gorbachev, to meet with the large capitalist, Steven Rockefeller.” On a broader level, Lubbers considers that the “universal declaration of human rights creates a common ground for a civilized society to meet on, including companies, non-governmental organizations and individuals.”
Afram gave a speech during a panel discussion on corporate social responsibility in entrepreneurship, which was moderated by Jose Ignacio Mariscal, CEO of Grupo Bimbo, and attended by Nemat Frem, President of the Lebanese Industrialists Association; Ziad Bakdache, Vice President of Oriental Paper Products; Atta Tselan, Vice President of the Federation of Businesses and Industrialists; and Moulay Youssef Alaoui, President of Soumado. According to Afram, "no political, economic, social or cultural project is legitimate if it’s not based on promoting human dignity. He continued by saying, “experience has taught us that crises occur when an economy exploits humans instead of serving them.”
He then explained that “It is our duty in the business community to keep a functional middle class in society.” He then listed the seven principles utilized by Indevco, “a servant leader, family spirit, integrity, humility, hard work, precision, and an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Ziad Bakdash ensured that “companies are no longer just economic entities, but are associated with their country and its citizens.” He added, “Businesses in today’s world should not stop at only being socially responsible, but must also seek innovation in its strategies and actions.” He also explained that “some researchers propose the replacement of the term ‘social responsibility’ with ‘social response,’ because the first implies some sort of duty, whereas the latter denotes a motive and purpose for companies to carry out their responsibilities and respond to social needs.”
Day two’s highlights were discussions on globalization, the financial crisis, and the role of values in fueling these crises; with an emphasis on the media’s role in contributing to the development, and on the country law’s role in opening doors for companies to implement their socially responsible plans.
Discussions were held by Jos van Gennip, former Dutch MP; Mustafa Nassereddin, Executive Director of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization; Nabil Fahed, Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon; and André Habisch, Professor of Social Ethics and Society at the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt; and concluded by former Lebanese Finance Minister, Georges Corm.