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Roundtable Discussion: “The Lebanese Diaspora, Remittances, and Economic Development”

March 25, 2015
LAU New York

LAU’s New York Academic Center, in collaboration with the World Bank and the General Consulate of Lebanon in New York, is hosting a roundtable discussion that will engage academics, experts, and policymakers in an interactive discussion, and conclude with policy recommendations and a publication.

For over a century Lebanese have been migrating and settling in various geographic regions of the world, and their population abroad has far surpassed that of Lebanon (an estimated 15 million, versus 4.3 million). Many of the Lebanese immigrants, most notably Carlos Slim, have achieved upward mobility and have established themselves as wealthy and successful entrepreneurs.

How could Lebanese abroad contribute to the economic growth and prosperity of their home country? To what extent can some of the remittances, estimated at 7.7 billion dollars in 2014, according to the World Bank, be used for public investment and development projects? These questions are particularly timely in the light of social and political conditions in Lebanon that have drastically affected the economy and increased reliance of the government on external loans.

Even prior to the influx of over a million Syrian refugees to Lebanon, the country has been incapable of expanding its job capacity to absorb a large pool of university graduates. As a result, over eighty percent of young Lebanese graduates are seeking employment opportunities abroad, leading to a considerable brain drain. In addition, regional political tensions have resulted in an unsustainable service industry. Involving the Lebanese diaspora in investment and economic development projects (in banking, real estate, education, and scientific and technological development) has never been more pertinent.

Speakers:

Edgar Choueiri is Director of Program in Engineering Physics, and of the Electric Propulsion and Plasma Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University. He is also a full professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, and associated faculty at the Astrophysical Sciences Department in Plasma Physics.

Philippe Fargues is the founding Director of the Migration Policy Centre in the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute. He is a sociologist and demographer who held senior positions at the National Institute for Demographic Studies in Paris and the American University in Cairo. He taught at Harvard and various universities in France, the Middle East and Africa.

Rand Ghayad is an associate at The Brattle Group and a research advisor in the Sloan School of Management at MIT. He is a leading expert on questions related to unemployment and financial markets, with extensive experience working with governments and multinational corporations in the Middle East. His work has been cited by President Barack Obama and in congressional testimonies.

Sergio Daniel Jalil is the founder and executive director of the Latin American Center for Lebanese Studies (CELIBAL). Previously he served as a senior vice president of the International Business Development Interaudi Bank and the vice president of the Latin American Business Development of Bank Audi. He was also the founder of the Lebanese Youth Movement in Argentina.

Habib Kairouz is a managing partner of Rho Capital Partners & Rho Ventures, a private equity firm. He is also involved with a number of non-profit organizations focused on reforms and economic development in Lebanon, such as Social and Economic Action for Lebanon (SEAL) and Lebanese International Finance Executives (LIFE).

Roula Moussa is the managing partner of Netways, the first provider of e-business solutions in the Middle East. To help youth discover their talents, she co-founded the Lebanese Association for Rural Development. She is the president of the Lebanese International Business Council and was named by Forbes as one of the 200 most powerful women in the Arab world. She also won the Lebanese Outstanding Women Award.

Samuel Rizk is a senior programme advisor with the Regional Bureau for Arab States at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Previously, he was a founding member and executive director of the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue, a regional NGO based in Beirut working on issues of community empowerment.

Nadim Shehadi is the Director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies in The Fletcher School at Tufts University. He is also an associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Previously he served as director of the Center for Lebanese Studies at St. Antony’s College, Oxford.

Paul Tabar is the director of the Institute for Migration Studies, chair of the Department of Social Sciences, and associate professor of sociology at LAU. His publications on Lebanese migrants include Being Lebanese in Australia: Identity, Racism and the Ethnic Field and Political Remittances: The Case of Lebanese Expatriates Voting in National Elections.

Majdi Ramadan (moderator) is the Consul General of Lebanon in New York. Previously he was a Counselor at the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations and Head of the Desk of the Americas and the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Emigrants in Lebanon.


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