"This year we were
expecting $3.5 billion before the war, and I now think this
investment will still be here," he told Reuters.
"I'm speaking now
to those who invested before the war or who were preparing
to do so. They are now waiting for security stability, but
their intention is to proceed... If we have that situation,
for 2007 we expect more than $4 billion."
The main investors
in Lebanon in recent years have been companies from other
Arab states: the UAE Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Itani said this
year's forecast was still quite high because figures from
the first quarter alone showed $1.1 billion in the sale of
Beirut real estate to foreign investors.
"They want to see
the arrival of a UN force, the deployment of the Lebanese
army, no more fighting," Itani said, citing aspects of a
UN-backed truce agreement that halted the fighting on August
The five-week war
killed around 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and
at least 157 Israelis.
Fouad Siniora's government has estimated the damage to
bridges, roads, and other infrastructure at $3.6 billion.
Damage to economic activity is seen at billions more,
including $3 billion lost from tourism receipts this summer.
Itani said his
estimates for incoming investment did not include billions
of dollars in aid expected to be injected by Lebanon's
government, private firms and donor states to rebuild
infrastructure devastated by Israeli attacks.
"These figures are
for investment projects, technology parks, conference
centers: investment, not reconstruction, not housing," he
said of the forecasts for 2006 and 2007.
Itani said at least
10 large factories had been destroyed, erasing up to five
per cent of Lebanon's industrial sector, which itself makes
up 12 percent of the economy.
Other sectors of
the economy have also ground to a halt. The government
expects zero or negative economic growth this year, from
previous forecasts for around six percent.
"Some sectors have
been completely destroyed," Itani said.
"But if you look at
the entire situation, you can see the infrastructure of
investment in Lebanon is still stable. Our competitive
advantages are still here."