Source: The Daily Star Lebanon Apr. 25, 2015 | 12:17 AM
Hajj Hasan: “Buy Lebanese-made drugs”
BEIRUT: Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan Friday called for reducing imports of pharmaceutical products in order to encourage locally made medications. “The pharmaceutical bill in Lebanon is $1.2 billion. Why don’t we reduce imports by 15 to 20 percent and increase dependence on locally made medications by the same proportion,” Hajj Hasan said at the opening of the fifth forum on health production at Le Royal Hotel in Dbayyeh.
The forum was attended by Health Ministry officials as well as representatives of hospitals, pharmacies and pharmaceutical importers.
The minister asked why some health institutions refused to deal with Lebanese medications that were registered at the Health Ministry.
“It is important to emphasize the partnership between the private and public sectors. None of the ministers is targeting the private sector,” Hajj Hasan explained.
He added that the balance of trade recorded a deficit of $7 billion 10 years ago and now this deficit has reached $17 billion. “We pump $20 billion abroad, $17 billion of which is the trade deficit and $3 billion is the total amount of salaries for foreign workers,” the minister said.
The minister was referring to the large number of Syrian, Egyptian and Asian workers in Lebanon who cumulatively send close to $3 billion in remittances back home.
He admitted that Lebanon would continue to be an importing country but said that nonetheless efforts should be made to increase exports of Lebanese-made goods to reduce the trade deficit.
Lebanese industrialists and farmers suffered a major blow this month after Syrian rebels seized the last crossing points between Syria and Jordan where the bulk of locally produced goods used to pass.
“We hope that the countries which provide us with assistance can facilitate our exports and treat us as we treat them on the level of commercial trade,” Hajj Hasan said.
He also criticized the indifference of the state on crucial matters that could revive the economy.
“Our public debt has exceeded $71 billion and extraction of oil and gas is one of the real solutions for our problems. But should we abandon other solutions and stay in the waiting mode?” the minister asked.
Hajj Hasan renewed calls for enlarging the size of the national economy and supporting the productive sectors that are able to create more jobs for the Lebanese.
“We also need to develop scientific research within our means. The medical sector in Lebanon is more than good but this sector needs a new structure. This responsibility falls on the shoulders of the government and ministers,” he argued.
At the end of the forum, the minister received a shield in appreciation of his efforts to help the industrial sector.